Saturday, October 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville goes for it, pays for it against Mills

Leader sportswriter

Leading 7-6 with just under a minute and a half to play, Jacksonville was in position to get another big 5A Central conference win at Mills on Friday.

However, a costly Jacksonville turnover on downs in Red Devil territory set up the go-ahead touchdown with seconds to play, and Mills pulled off the 14-7 upset win over the Red Devils.

“They have athletes and they finally hit some creases,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell after the game. “I think we played good defense for the entire football game. Sometimes big plays happen.”

After struggling to get anything going in the first half offensively, Mills was able to get some production from its running game. Jacksonville scored the first and only touchdown of the first half on a 12-yard Aaron Smith touchdown pass to senior receiver Brandon Brockman.

The extra point gave the Red Devils a 7-0 lead at the break. That was the score until the Comets put together a punishing drive early in the fourth quarter. With 9:54 to play, Mills junior quarterback Omar Avance capped off a nine-play drive with a 30-yard touchdown run on an option keeper.

Avance, who is also the Comets’ kicker, failed to tie the game on the extra point attempt, and Jacksonville led 7-6. The Red Devil offense went three and out on the ensuing drive, giving Mills another shot.

The Comets’ offense put together what looked to be like another promising drive, but a dropped pass on third down, and another incomplete pass on the next snap gave the ball back to the Red Devils with under two minutes to play.

Smith ran the ball up the middle on a quarterback keeper for a two-yard gain to keep the clock rolling, but as Jacksonville tried to run out the clock, the Red Devils ran too much time off the play clock and had to call timeout.

Smith got the call again on second down, but the Comets held him to a 1-yard gain. Mills called timeout and on third down, senior playmaker Kevin Richardson ran the ball four yards to set up fourth and four at the Red Devil 46.

The Comets called another timeout, and afterward, the Red Devils lined up as if they were going to go for it on fourth down with 1:24 to play. Jacksonville tried to get the Comets’ defense to jump offsides, but they didn’t bite, and the Red Devils called timeout.

After the timeout, Jacksonville’s offense took the field and went for it on fourth down in hopes of picking up the first down and running out the clock from there. But sophomore running back Lamont Gause could only manage two yards on the running play and Mills took over on downs at the Jacksonville 48-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Avance hit junior wideout Jaylen Clark on a 43-yard pass down the sideline that set up first and goal at the Red Devil 5-yard line. Three plays later, senior fullback Dwayne Davis plowed his way in for the go-ahead touchdown with 12 seconds left to play.

“They got their athletes out in space and they made some plays,” Russell said about Mills. “We’ll look at this, and we’ll go back and review where we need correct some mistakes. We need to figure out how they made those plays and we’ll work on those.

“We need to execute. Our coaches put a lot of time in for our game plan, and it just comes down to executing that game plan. Staying with your blocks until the whistle blows, and doing their job. Maybe if we would’ve executed a little better we would’ve scored some more points.”

Mills (6-3, 4-2) finished the night with 256 yards of offense. Jacksonville finished with 197. Smith completed 7 of 14 passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. He also led all ball carriers with 89 yards on 22 totes. Richardson had 74 yards from scrimmage on just eight touches.

Jacksonville (6-3, 5-1) still has a chance to earn a No. 1 seed in the 5A state playoffs, but have to beat powerhouse Pulaski Academy next week in the regular season finale at Jan Crow Stadium.