Saturday, September 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans strike fast to win opener

Leader sports editor

tball team opened the Titan era with a 27-26 victory over the Mills Comets on Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The first year of independence from Pulaski County Special School District and combining with the former North Pulaski Falcons sparked the mascot change, and the newly donned Titans displayed a quick-strike offense in the season opener.

Jacksonville scored on the second play of the game when Harderrious Martin took a sweep right 74 yards for the opening touchdown with just 13 seconds expired from the game.

It took the Comets, however, almost as little time to score as Jacksonville. After a good kick return, Mills quarterback Jereme Allen kept up the middle for a 46-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, leaving Jacksonville with a 7-6 lead just 30 seconds into the game.

Jacksonville milked some clock on the next possession before hitting a big pass play to go up by eight points. On third and 6, quarterback Rowdy Weathers hit Jonathan Hall for a 43-yard touchdown and a 14-6 lead with 7:36 still remaining in the opening quarter.

The pace slowed after that touchdown. The two teams traded fruitless possessions until a little more than halfway through the second quarter. That’s when running back Rajhon Ware rumbled 15 yards to cap a 43-yard drive with 6:14 left in the second period. A two-point conversion try failed, and Jacksonville took a 14-12 lead into the locker room.

Mills got the ball to start the second half and put together its best drive of the game. The Comets started on their own 29, and went 71 yards in 12 plays, capping the drive with a Brandon Bunting run from 15 yards out. A two-point conversion was successful, and Mills held a 20-14 lead with 5:22 left in the third quarter.

A high snap on first down put Jacksonville 14 yards behind the chains to start the next drive. An illegal procedure penalty made it worse, but Jacksonville almost got the first down with an 11-yard rush by Shawn Ellis and a 17-yard reception by Debious Cobbs. The Titans, however, failed to convert on fourth and 1 and turned it over on downs.

Mills went backwards on its next possession before hitting a 12-yard pass. On fourth and 3, Bunting lost 4 yards and Jacksonville took possession on its own 44.

On the very next play, Martin again broke loose, this time for 56 yards and the score, but a missed extra point left the score tied with four seconds left in the third quarter.

The two teams traded fruitless possessions again until Mills made the first big mistake.

Jacksonville senior Kendrick Rhynes covered a fumbled snap on the Comets’ 21-yard line, and Jacksonville scored on the next play. Weathers found Marcus Casey in the end zone with 6:06 left in the game, and Darryl Kimble-Brooks’ extra point was good, proving huge later in the quarter.

Mills went 66 yards in 10 plays and less than four minutes, scoring on another Allen keeper from 17 yards out with 2:25 left in the game. The Comets’ extra point, however, was no good, and they were forced to try an onside kick.

Jacksonville covered it at midfield, but lost 6 yards thanks to two penalties. The Titans were able to run the clock down so that Mill had time for just one hail Mary pass attempt, which resulted in a sack to end the game.

Mills will play its home opener next week against Hall High, while Jacksonville will play Catholic High at War Memorial Stadium on Friday. Catholic lost its opener 48-34 at Sylvan Hills.