Saturday, October 07, 2017

SPORTS STORY >>Titan defense seals victory

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville defense found a measure of redemption on Friday, turning around a poor performance from a week ago and leading the Titans to a 14-10 victory over the Mountain Home Bombers at Jan Crow Stadium.

Jacksonville turnovers and special teams breakdowns helped Mountain Home’s Double-wing offense dominate time of possession. The Titans came up with big stops when they needed them the most, including twice on fourth down in the fourth quarter with the Bombers inside the red zone.

“The defense showed up, man,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “That’s two big stops down there. They were just wearing on us and trying to wear us down. They had the ball the whole second half it seemed like. The defense was tired but they rose to the challenge.”

Jacksonville (2-4, 1-2) scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown early in the third quarter on a play only a wizard could draw up. The called play was a lateral pass down the line of scrimmage to Scott. He dropped the ball, chased it down, picked it up and reversed his field under heavy pressure by the Bomber defense. He was caught back in the middle of the field and lateralled back to quarterback Harderrious Martin as he was being tackled. Martin then outran all but one Bomber defender, and broke that tackle to finish off the wild 60-yard play with a touchdown. Josh Huber’s extra point made it 14-7 with 8:44 to go in the third quarter.

The Titans had a chance to go up two scores when Broderick Lacy intercepted an Isaac McKay pass on the first play of the next possession, but the Titans tried to go the air without success. One 14-yard reception by Braylon Mosby was the only positive play of the six in the drive.

There were three incomplete passes. Martin scrambled for 3 yards after being forced out of the pocket, a bad shotgun snap lost a yard and an illegal procedure penalty pushed them back further before punting on fourth and 16.

Mountain Home then drove from its own 25 to the Titan 16-yard line when Jacksonville’s defense stopped them and forced a 33-yard field goal attempt.

Ewan Platt had plenty of leg and split the uprights on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 14-10 with 11:53 left in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Jacksonville sold out for the rolling on-side kick, but Platt pooch kicked it toward the sideline. Platt landed the ball inches from the sideline and stopped it like a pitching wedge, where T.J. McKenna covered it for the Bombers at the Jacksonville 25.

The rest of the game was Jacksonville’s defense making stops to preserve the win.

The Bombers (0-6, 0-3) failed to get a single first down on the ensuing possession. On fourth and 3 from the 18, McKay tried to sneak outside again, but Martin came up from the safety position and made the tackle for a 2-yard loss.

But just a minute and 36 seconds into Jacksonville’s possession, Martin also threw a pass right to Mountain Home’s Ben Henderson to give the Bombers the ball at the Titan 46.

A heavy dose of 250-pound fullback Junior Williams got the Bombers to Titan 12-yard line, where they had second down and 6 yards to go. Kalon McCoy stopped Williams for a 1-yard loss, and Marcus Etherly and Marquez Casey then stopped him for no gain to set up fourth and 7.

McKay dropped back to pass on fourth down, but linebacker Marquis Rollins got pressure and forced an early and incomplete throw to give Jacksonville possession with 3:30 left in the game

“I thought we needed to play fast early and try to get out on them,” Hickingbotham said. “I knew if we didn’t, it would turn into to just what it turned into, a dogfight. I was a little worried about that with that big boy running the ball. But our defense won the dogfight tonight.”

Jacksonville’s offense moved the ball well when it wasn’t fumbling it or throwing it away. There were also a lot of dropped passes. Jacksonville got the ball to start the game and picked up 27 yards on four run plays to the Bomber 30. A pass for what would’ve been at least 15 yards was dropped by Mosby.

Shawn Ellis then rumbled 8 yards on second and 10 before losing the ball. Mountain Home covered it at the 22.

The Titan defense forced a three-and-out, but Jacksonville gave it away again. After another big run by Ellis again got the ball to the Bomber 30, Xavier Scott fumbled it away at the 5-yard line after a 25-yard reception.

Both teams remained scoreless through the first quarter and most of the second. Mountain Home finally got on the board first when quarterback Isaac McKay kept around the right tackle on the option and broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown run. The extra point made it 7-0 Mountain Home with 6:54 left in the first half.

Jacksonville answered right back. After fielding an on-side kick attempt at the 43-yard line, Scott made a 27-yard reception once again to the Bomber 30.

This time things worked out for the home team. Martin scrambled 21 yards to set up first and goal. Ellis did the rest, going 1 yard on the next play and the remaining 8 for the score with 5:15 to go in the second quarter. Josh Huber’s extra point tied the game and that’s how it went into intermission.

Jacksonville travels to Little Rock to take on Hall High next week. A win in that game likely earns the Titans a playoff berth.