The Jackson defense lines up against Eagle’s Landing on Friday. The Red Devils kept the visiting team scoreless in the last game of the season.
Jackson The Jackson High School Red Devils ended their season with a resounding 38-0 victory over Eagle’s Landing High School Friday night, giving the team and fans reasons for optimism for the future.
Jackson did not play a perfect game against Eagle’s Landing, but it was clear after the first quarter that Jackson was in control. Sophomore tailback De’Eric Bell ran his way to yet another game of more than 100 yards rushing, in little more than one half of the game.
However, the game started ominously for Bell, as he had his jersey ripped in half by Eagle’s Landing defenders as they prevented him from scoring from the 2-yard line.
“It got ripped right between the two and the three down the back,” said Jackson manager Eric “Old School” Ball. “I had to run into the locker room and grab him another one before he could go back in.”
That was about as bad as it got for Bell, though. He re-entered the game midway through the first quarter, and two plays later he sprinted around the right end for a 45-yard touchdown run. Junior kicker Joe Brown’s extra point gave Jackson a 7-0 lead. Later in the quarter, Bell took his next carry 38 yards for another Jackson score, and another Brown extra point made it 14-0 at the end of the first period. Brown also added a 37-yard field goal in the second half for the Red Devils.
Jackson kept the good play going in the second quarter, except this time it was the defense’s turn to make a statement. At the beginning of the second, senior defensive back Jarvis Sheppard picked off a pass by Eagle’s Landing senior quarterback Tyler Teknipp, and Jackson junior linebacker Jamarcus Smith intercepted Teknipp again on Eagle’s Landing’s next possession.
Following Smith’s interception, Jackson junior quarterback Will Cook connected with senior receiver Jarrett Watts for a 16-yard touchdown pass to put Jackson ahead by three touchdowns.
Following two more defensive stops by Jackson, Cook connected with another pass to set up a touchdown, but this time it was to senior receiver Dorian Davis who wowed the crowed with a one-handed catch in traffic to get the ball to the 1-yard line. Jessie Davis scored on the next play, and the successful extra point made it a 28-0 lead for Jackson at halftime.
Penalty flags flew throughout the game for both in-game procedures as well as personal fouls for both teams. On Davis’ scoring run, Jackson offensive lineman Levi Heath was ejected from the game for excessive roughness.
“I got a little upset with them at halftime because they weren’t coached that way and weren’t raised that way to retaliate,” said Head Coach Mike Parris. “But they responded real well.”
Jackson was able to go into cruise control after securing a 35-point lead thanks to Marciano Allen’s kickoff return to start the second half, which he ran more than 90 yards for a touchdown. Freshman kicker Cade Chewning got the nod to take the extra point following the touchdown, and he booted the ball through the uprights. (Jackson’s senior kicker Hannah Kline was inactive with a leg injury.)
Jackson began to rotate younger players in during the second half, and the disjointed effect was felt offensively. But while the Red Devils struggled offensively in the second half, they were as stingy as ever on the other side of the ball. Sheppard collected his second interception of the game in the fourth quarter, and the defense was constantly pressuring Teknipp. Eagle’s Landing made every effort to get the ball downfield as quickly as possible through the passing game to get itself on the scoreboard, but to no avail.
“We told these guys to take out nine games of frustration and play their hearts out,” said Parris. “And you know what? They played their hearts out. It’s just a wonderful group of young men and a great group of seniors.”
Jackson finished its season with a record of 4-6 (3-5 in region). Despite the losing record, three of Jackson’s region losses were by 10 points or less, and Parris said that is something they can build upon.
“We were so close in so many games, what can you say,” said Parris. “I think this season will make us a stronger football team in the future.”