JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville running back Rontarius Wiggins led the Golden Eagles’ offense all year long, so why would they look anywhere else come playoff time?
The junior running back got the ball early and often in Jacksonville’s 39-21 first-round victory over Rogers in a Class 4A game, piling up 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He also had one reception for a 53-yard touchdown, as he burned the Pirates for a big plays all night long.
Wiggins opened the scoring with a 95-yard touchdown run after a Golden Eagles’ stand on a Rogers fourth down at the five, then never looked back on his way to another huge night. Even if he did look back, he’d only see Pirate defenders in his wake.
“He’s been solid all year for us,” Jacksonville head coach Clint Smith said. “He’s got great speed and vision, and he just does a really good job finding the holes our guys create for him."
Wiggins accounted for five of the six Golden Eagles touchdowns, with the other coming on a back-breaking punt return from Jaeden Barksdale with 5:13 left in the second quarter that gave Jacksonville the two-touchdown separation at 20-7 that they maintained for most of the night.
Wiggins’ final touchdown came after a fumble recovery by Jacksonville’s Jaylon Prater set the Golden Eagles up on the Rogers 20. Wiggins ran it in five plays later, and Noah Sawyer’s extra point kick made the score 39-21 with 3:59 remaining, icing the victory for Jacksonville.
What to know
—Jacksonville’s win marked their 11th on the season, which is a school record. The Golden Eagles had won 10 games just once before, when they finished 10-1 in the 1999 season. It’s just the seventh time in school history Jacksonville has made it to the second round of the AHSAA playoffs.
—Golden Eagles quarterback Luke Jackson completed 10 of 13 pass attempts for 120 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions.
—Nicholas Buttrum, Alex Rogers and Zion Black all found the end zone for Rogers, each making it in on the ground.
—Wiggins on the victory: “Rogers is a good team, but we just made the plays we were supposed to make. We’re trying to make history; we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”
—Smith on the win: “We knew coming in that Rogers was a big physical team, especially up front. We knew it was going to be a war in the trenches. It was a cold night and a wet night not ideal conditions, but our guys came out and played really well, and at this point it’s about surviving and moving on.”
—Smith on Jacksonville’s bye week before the playoffs: “Having the off week really helped us heal up and helped us with some injuries, but it also gets you out of game speed for a little while. I felt like we handled that pretty well. We’re just proud of the win tonight and looking forward to going to round two.”
—Jacksonville (11-0) moves on to the second round of the 4A playoffs. The Golden Eagles will travel next Friday night to Good Hope, which defeated St. John Paul II 62-28 in a first-round game. Rogers ended the season with a 7-4 record.