After a two-year absence, the Jacksonville Golden Eagles are back in the second round of the AHSAA Class 4A football playoffs. Jacksonville pounded visiting Randolph School of Huntsville 43-13 Friday night to advance.
The reward for the Golden Eagles is a trip west to Fayette to take on long-time power Fayette County (9-2), the champions of Region 6. The Tigers, who defeated West Limestone 21-12 last week, have been in the playoffs each year for 13 consecutive seasons, a streak that began in 2005. John Morgan Brown Stadium is known as a particularly difficult environment for visiting teams but Jacksonville (8-3) has the momentum of an eight-game winning streak in its favor.
“We’ve played really well these last eight weeks. The way these kids have played they have a lot of confidence. I don’t think they’ll be intimidated going in there,” Eagles head coach Clint Smith said prior to Monday’s practice. “We’ll spend a little bit of time talking about it but it’s like I told them this morning, ‘You get to this point you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve got to be mature and you’ve got to be able to handle the road trip.’”
Smith said Fayette County is about 50-50 run to pass on offense. The Tigers will spread the field with formations that include as many as five wide receivers.
Senior quarterback Chance Stevenson, listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, has a powerful arm and is also his team’s best runner. Senior wide receiver Darius Nalls (6-2, 172) has been Stevenson’s favorite target. Nalls had four touchdown receptions in Fayette County’s 28-0 win over Cordova on Oct. 13. Across the offensive line, the Tigers are 230 to 240 pounds per man.
Randolph got off to an explosive start with a 74-yard run to start the game and a touchdown two plays later. After that, it was all Jacksonville.
“I was proud of how we settled down and were able to come back and tie it, then go up 21-7 at the half and then just take control of the game,” Smith said. “Our backfield ran the ball really, really well. We had two backs (Macey Carr and Ron Wiggins) go over 100 and Tahj (Kirkland) ran it well, too. Any time you do that you’ve got to look at the line of scrimmage. We blocked really well. I felt like we won the battle on the line of scrimmage on both sides, offense and defense.”
Carr finished with 182 yards on the ground and one touchdown on 23 carries. Wiggins netted 129 yards and two touchdowns on 21 tries. Kirkland ran 11 times for two scores and 43 yards.
Carr’s 7-yard run with 3:16 to play in the first quarter provided Jacksonville’s first points. Preston Harvey, 5-for-6 on extra points, made it 7-7.
The Eagles took the lead on a 4-yard run by Kirkland midway through the second quarter. With 3:02 to go before intermission, quarterback Colton Clark completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jakobie Calloway and Jacksonville led 21-7.
Kirkland scored for the second time on a 1-yard run with just more than three minutes left in the third quarter. A 45-yard run by Wiggins made increased Jacksonville’s lead to 35-7 with 9:58 to play. Randolph returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. The Eagles added to their 35-13 advantage with 2:59 left when Omarion Adams sacked the Raiders’ quarterback in the end zone for a safety. Jacksonville’s final points came on a 47-yard run by Wiggins with 1:29 to play.
Clark ended 7-for-17 passing for 59 yards. Calloway had four receptions for 19 yards. Cade Landers caught one pass for 23 yards, Ben Patterson one for 14 yards and Jewels Gray one for three yards.
Calloway and Josh Glass each recorded five tackles. Glass had one sack. Adams and Patterson had four stops apiece. Two of Patterson’s came behind the line of scrimmage and Adams had a sack. James Johnson made three tackles. Taye Loud and JalenTrueblood had two tackles each. One of Trueblood’s was for lost yardage. Josh Bell added a quarterback sack.