Two Jacksonville turnovers on the Golden Eagles’ first two possessions gave visiting Cherokee County excellent field position. The Warriors responded with the first two touchdowns of the game Friday but Jacksonville recovered quickly and eventually won going away by a 45-21 count.
The win, the seventh straight for the Eagles, ended Jacksonville’s regular season at 7-3 overall. Jacksonville finished second in Region 5 with a 6-1 region record.
“We didn’t panic. We didn’t do anything crazy,” Jacksonville coach Clint Smith said Monday of Friday’s early going. “We just kind of stayed with it and ended up going in ahead 17-14 at the half and then just kind of poured it on the second half.”
Smith said being able to shake off a 14-0 deficit showed the maturity the Eagles have gained as the 2017 season has progressed.
“I think the adversity that we went through early, especially the first two weeks of the season when we just weren’t playing very well, having experienced that and fighting through that, I think that helps you,” Smith said.
The opening kickoff went to Cherokee County. The Eagles forced a quick three-and-out but Macey Carr had the ball stripped away on their first offensive snap. Cherokee County scored on a 27-yard run for a 7-0 lead at 8:17 of the first quarter. The second time Jacksonville had the ball, punter Preston Harvey dropped the snap and the Warriors recovered, setting up a 29-yard touchdown run at 4:52 of the first quarter.
From that point it was all Jacksonville. With 10:57 to play in the second quarter, Carr scored on a 1-yard run and Harvey, who was 6-for-6 on extra points, cut Cherokee County’s lead to 14-7. Harvey then booted a 38-yard field goal with 7:32 to go in the second and Jacksonville trailed just 14-10.
With just 36 seconds left before halftime, quarterback Colton Clark passed to Jakolbie Calloway for 29 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
“We really were able to execute our two-minute offense to get down the field,” Smith noted. “The long pass from Colton to Calloway was a real big momentum swing.”
Up 17-14 at halftime, the Eagles made certain momentum stayed with them by scoring on the opening possession of the third quarter. Ron Wiggins did the honors on a 36-yard run with 9:49 to play in the third.
“That’s a 14-point swing without them touching the ball. That was a really big point in the game for us to get the momentum swinging and kind of running away with it there at the end,” Smith said.
Carr followed with a 48-yard scoring run midway through the third. With 39 seconds to go in the third, Wiggins scored for the second time on a 48-yard run and Jacksonville led 38-14. Calloway returned a punt 56 yards for Jacksonville’s final touchdown with 11:07 to play. Cherokee County tallied a meaningless touchdown with 2:19 to go.
Carr finished with 21 carries for 211 yards. Wiggins ran nine times for 113 yards. Clark completed three of his eight passes for 37 yards and did not allow an interception. Calloway had two catches for 31 yards. Josh Glass caught one pass for six yards.
Glass paced the defense with 10 tackles, including one quarterback sack.
Blake Morris recorded seven stops, one behind the line of scrimmage. Omaron Adams and Ben Patterson each made six tackles.
Patterson had two sacks and two additional tackles for lost yards. Adams made three tackles for loss. Calloway, Sam Dingler and Joseph Bolton had three tackles each. Jamel Mays and Cam Parker each recorded one tackle for loss. JaMari Burrell, Luke Jackson, James Johnson and Cade Landers had two tackles apiece.
The Eagles have an open date this week. As the No. 2 team in Region 5, they will host Randolph School of Huntsville in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs on Nov. 10.
Smith said early practices this week will focus on staying sharp – timing, execution, speed of the game.
“For the past seven weeks now, I feel like we’ve consistently gotten better doing the things that we do,” Smith said.