Saturday, November 01, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils do their job

Special to The Leader

It was a huge game at Jan Crow Stadium Friday night when Jacksonville hosted the Mills Comets. A win would keep the Red Devils in the 5A-Central Conference playoff picture. And on Senior Night with the pressure on, Jacksonville came through with the hard-fought 31-7 victory to even its conference record at 3-3. A win next week will give the Red Devils the number four seed in the playoffs.

“A good win, to finish the game, and the kids played hard,” said Jacksonville head coach Barry Hickingbotham. “Our seniors, being Senior Night, just rose up and led our football team. We played good, and our defense was solid. They’ve got a great tailback over there, the Peters kid. We held him pretty well. He’s been averaging a touchdown over 70 yards a game, and we stopped that tonight. I’m proud of the defense and the way they played tonight.

“Next week we get one more chance to play, one more chance to play when it means something. We’re excited for the opportunity.”

Jacksonville had 400 yards of total offense, while holding the Comets to 259 yards. Lamont Gause had 280 total yards and four touchdowns for the Red Devils. Calen Peters led Mills with 122 yards.

Jacksonville received the opening kickoff, but was forced to punt. Mills, however, turned the ball right back to the Red Devils by way of a fumble on its first play from scrimmage. Jacksonville drove to the Mills 2-yard line, but was unable to punch the ball in for the score, turning the ball over on downs to the Comets.

When the Red Devil defense forced a Mills punt, the punters knee touched the ground on the snap, which turned the ball back over to the Jacksonville offense on the Comet 8-yard line. Gause rushed for 7 yards on the first play, and scored from the 1-yard line on the second. John Herrmann’s extra point made the score 7-0 with 4:48 to go in the opening quarter.

Mills moved the chains three times before turning the ball over again by putting the ball on the ground. Jacksonville recovered on its own 20-yard line. Quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham was complete to Maurice Young for 14 yards on the first play of the drive.

Runs of 19, 10, and 23 yards by Gause helped move the ball to the 1-yard line before losing 5 yards back to the 6-yard line. Gause took it 2 yards to the 4-yard line, but on fourth and 4, Herrmann came in to kick a 21-yard field goal making the lead 10-0 with 9:19 to go in the second quarter.

Mills then answered with a 13-play, 53-yard touchdown drive of its own, capped off by an 18-yard scoring pass from quarterback Race Rodgers to Allen Murphy. The extra point was good by Nathan Millsap to narrow the lead to 10-7 with 2:02 to go in the half.

Jacksonville moved 90 yards in six plays, the first of which was a 67-yard scamper by Gause, who then took the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out after a 16-yard gain by Keilen Richardson. Herrmann added the PAT for a 17-7 margin with 0:16 before intermission.

On the first Red Devil possession of the second half, Hickingbotham hit Laderrious Perry for a 14-yard gain, then Avery Wells for 22 yards, before completing the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Gause. Herrmann’s extra point was good again, and the lead was 24-7.

The final score of the contest was a 29-yard touchdown run by Gause, who also had a 45-yard run on the second play of the drive. Herrmann completed a perfect night with the PAT, and the final score was set at 31-7 with 4:16 to go in the third quarter.

Stevie Eskridge intercepted a Rodgers’ pass to give the ball right back to Jacksonville on the Comets’ next possession. The Red Devils pinned Mills back on its own 7-yard line after a punt, and then held the Comets on a fake punt to extinguish scoring attempts by the visitors.

Jacksonville travels to LR McClellan Thursday night for the final regular-season game, but with hopes of extending the season with a playoff berth.