By the time the Eagles found their rhythm, the song was basically over.
East Jackson punched the ball in the end zone twice in the fourth quarter and nearly added a third score, but Cameron Pettus and company had already heard too much of Franklin County’s post-touchdown canon blasts to walk away with a win Friday (Oct. 18).
“We started clicking in the fourth quarter, but that’s too late,” said Pettus, whose squad fell to the Lions 35-14 on the road. “So we have to keep learning from this, keep building from this.”
With his team down 28-0 midway through the fourth quarter, quarterback Greg Huggs connected with Randy Smith on a 14-yard touchdown pass to cap off a five-play, 85-yard scoring drive for the Eagles’ first points on the night.
Nino Brown, who ripped off numerous big runs Friday and topped 200 yards rushing, raced in from 26 yards out to conclude a six-play, 80-yard drive with just 1:30 to go, for the final score of the game.
East Jackson nearly added another score after a Franklin County fumble was recovered by Braxton Standridge. Huggs appeared to hit Smith for a second score in the final seconds of the game, but Smith was ruled out of bounds. Huggs hit Caleb Adair for a 27-yard score as time expired, but the play was called back due to an ineligible receiver penalty.
The game started as a defensive slugfest, with neither team scoring in the first quarter, but Franklin County got on the board with 6:00 to go before intermission on a 31-yard run by C.J. Hall. The point after attempt was blocked, and the Lions led 6-0.
East Jackson moved into Lion territory on its next possession but was forced to punt after taking a 13-yard loss on a fumble. The Eagles pinned the Lions deep, but Hall broke open for a 92-yard touchdown run after breaking tackles. The East Jackson sideline screamed that Hall was down.
“You never want to talk about officiating,” said Pettus. “I know those guys are going to see it on film and be sad they didn’t make that call. But he had both elbows down. I know they’re human too, but they definitely missed that one.”
The Lions tacked on a two-point conversion. And the score was a major momentum shift in the game, with Franklin County carrying a two-score lead into intermission.
The Lions, who picked up their first win of the season Friday to move to 1-6, added to their lead in the second half. Titlan Wells scored from four yards out to give the Lions a 21-0 lead with 7:42 to go in the third quarter. Franklin County added another score on a one-yard run by Wells on the first play of the fourth quarter. The home squad added its final score of the night on a six-yard run by Wells with 3:55 to go.
Despite the loss, Pettus said there were some bright spots for the Eagles.
“I thought Justin Haynes was a stud (on defense),” said Pettus. “They had to run away from him. Anything they ran to him, he pretty much ate it up. He did a fantastic job.”
Who stood out on offense?
“Obviously, number eight (Brown) — he’s always competing and doing a great job,” said the coach. “I thought our offensive line settled down in the second half. We moved a kid to center, No. 70 Xander (Engel), and he did a great job snapping the ball for us in the second half.”
Kahlil Watkins had two first-half interceptions for East Jackson, including one in the end zone when the Lions threatened to score.
The first-year coach spoke briefly with his team in the locker room following the game.
“I told them, I’m not happy with the outcome obviously,” said Pettus, whose squad dropped to 3-4 on the season. “I’m very competitive. I know they are, too. But we are getting better. We are building something we haven’t done here. Like I told them, this doesn’t happen over night. You don’t just flip on a switch and win every game. They just have to understand they have to continue to stick together and keep working hard and keep moving forward.”
East Jackson will travel to Hart County Oct. 25 before hosting Morgan County Nov. 1 and Jackson County Nov. 8 to close out the season.