Class 4A playoffs: Jacksonville heads to state quarterfinals for first time

High school football teaser

Kirsten Fiscus / The Anniston Star

MADISON — Jacksonville got five touchdowns from senior Rontarius Wiggins and three more from Taj Morris to earn the school’s first trip to the state quarterfinals by routing St. John Paul II Catholic 56-22 on Friday in the Class 4A playoffs.

Wiggins ran for 329 yards on 25 carries with touchdown runs of 4, 10, 55, 15 and 11 yards.

Jacksonville (10-2) will carry a six-game win streak into its quarterfinal matchup at Golden Eagle Stadium against Northside (11-1), which advanced with a 41-14 win over Priceville. The Rams have won 11 in a row.

Wiggins scored four touchdowns and gained 246 yards in the first half as the Eagles built a 35-14 lead by intermission. He ran freely in the first half — mostly behind the left side of his offensive line — and scored four times in the game’s first 13½ minutes. He piled up 175 yards in the first quarter alone and had 246 at halftime on only 15 carries.

Morris added touchdown runs of 1, 24 and 13 yards as Jacksonville’s offense rolled up 471 yards on the ground against the Falcons (9-3), who saw their school-record seven-game win streak halted.

What to know

—St. John Paul II, which entered the second-round matchup averaging almost 50 points a game during the win streak, was held to 18 points below its season average (39.8 points a game) by the opportunistic Jacksonville defense, which forced four turnovers.

—Kyre’ Manor and Jaylon Prater each had an interception for the Eagles, while Jackson Moses and Joseph Bolton recovered SJP II fumbles.

—Seth Brown threw two touchdown passes and ran 43 yards for another score to lead the Falcons. The junior completed 11 of 26 passes for 206 yards, with a 4-yard TD pass to Nicholaus Stokes and a 58-yard bomb to Sean Zenkle late in the game.

—Morris ran 11 times for 67 yards and three touchdowns.

—Friday’s 56-point effort marked the seventh time the Eagles scored at least 40 points in a game and the fifth time scoring 54 or more.

Who said

—Jacksonville coach Clint Smith on the win: “It’s a great feeling. I’m so proud of our team, our players, our coaches, our community. Just proud to be advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history.”

—Smith on the offensive unit: “Ron is a great young man and he’s done a great job. But the supporting cast has really given us the ability to open things up offensively. The offensive line has gotten better each and every week.”

Next up

—Jacksonville moves on to the quarterfinals to face Northside in the first meeting ever between the two programs. Before Friday night, the Eagles were 0-7 in second-round playoff games.