Friday, November 03, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Safeties, wild FGA highlight JHS loss

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Titans were on the wrong end of a 53-18 shellacking by the Pine Bluff Zebras Thursday in the regular season finale at Jan Crow Stadium.

The loss doesn’t change the Titans standing in the playoffs. As the 6A-East No. 6 seed, they will play at 6A-West three-seed Benton on Friday night.

Thursday night’s game, played in balmy weather, saw three safeties, a number of big sacks, and a 75-yard field goal try.

Coach Barry Hickingbotham, said even in the loss he was proud of his kids.

“The Zebras had some long plays against us, but the kids didn’t quit.” He also talked about his banged-up quarterback corps. “We are going to play whoever is healthiest next week.”

The game was tight, 8-7, until the last minute of the first quarter. Earlier in the quarter, the Titans recovered a fumble and Shawn Ellis scampered 3 yards for a touchdown. The Zebras got two points on a safety, then scored a touchdown, but the extra-point conversion failed.

But with 52 seconds left in the first quarter, the Zebras crossed the goal line again, and with a good extra point, made it 16-7 and never looked back.

The Zebras started off the second quarter with another touchdown score, with running back Braylon Moody scoring for the third time in the game.

On their second possession of the second quarter, the Titans pushed the ball forward behind a 28-yard scramble by quarterback Shavarris Curley, but a bad snap (an issue most of the night) stalled the drive. John Huber hit a 40-yard field goal despite an off-the-mark snap, closing the scoring gap, 22–10.

With just under five minutes in the half, the Titans had another bad snap that was recovered in the end zone for another safety.

After the Titans kicked off, the Zebras were looking to score but solid tackling by Shaeq’ke Robinson and an interception by Tre Newson in the end zone gave Jacksonville momentum, but they just couldn’t move the ball.

A short punt and good return gave the Zebras the ball on the Titan 25-yard line, but an 18-yard sack by Robinson looked to end any scoring threat. However, on the next play, the Zebras’ Kerry Hadley got most of the loss back, then a 25-yard pass play gave the Zebras another touchdown right before halftime.

In the third quarter, the Titans were able to move the ball behind runs by Curley and Ellis, but couldn’t complete drives.

But a punt later in the quarter pinned the Zebras on their own 4-yard line. A bad snap gave the Titans a safety, making the score 31-12.

The Zebras ended the third quarter and started the fourth quarter with touchdowns, extending their lead to 45-12.

Right before that third quarter Zebra touchdown, the Titans tried a 75-yard field goal. Kicker Huber has a strong leg, but no one expected him to hit the field goal. The try traveled to the Zebras’ 20-yard line, but special teams couldn’t stop the return run which went back almost to where Huber had kicked it. The Zebras scored three plays later.

Jacksonville came back with Cam Holston at the helm, as Curley was recovering from some hard hits. On a fourth down with the ball on the 8-yard line, the Titans bypassed a field goal try and Holston hit Jordan Johnson deep in the need zone. The extra-point conversion failed leaving the score 45-18.

Just a few plays later, the Zebra’s Dimetrick Jones-Wallace peeled off a 58-yard touchdown run, and a two-point conversion set the final score at 53-18.