Fans filled the bleachers and there were plenty of spectators surrounding the field outside of the gate to see both teams county schools play each other for the first time since 2010 when the Trojans won 7-6.
Friday night’s showdown in Mound Bayou was a hard-hitting affair where both teams made their share of mistakes. In the end, it was the solid ground game of the Trojans that enabled them to score 24 unanswered points in the fourth to win the game 40-22 pushing their record to 2-0. The Hornets opened their year at 0-1. On the night, the Trojans racked up 325 yards of offense on close to 60 plays, while JFK racked up 193 yards on 32 plays.
Behind the blocking of the offensive line, the strong running of Quadre Butler, the speed of Taquille Eatmon and the pure presence of Barron Burns in the backfield anchored the Trojans in the fourth quarter.
“We lean and depend on those guys up front,” Woodard said about the offensive line. “It starts with those guys up front. We were fortunate enough to get Quadre back tonight, and he had a very good game for us. We were also able to bring that change of pace with Taquille Eatmon. We try to bring that power and that speed at the same time and lean on those offensive linemen up front.
“We got out of our game a little bit in the first half trying to throw the football. We’re a running football club, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
With 9:15 left in the game trailing 22-16, the Trojans were able to put six on the board when Eatmon marched on a 15-yard run. Barron Burns ran into the end zone for the 2-point conversion to put the Trojans ahead 24-22.
Eatmon’s touchdown march signaled the beginning of the end as the Trojans wore down the Hornets and controlled the clock the rest of the night. Butler marched on a two-yard touchdown run with Burns scoring the two-point conversion with 7:01 left on the clock, and Jalen Thomas intercepted a pass and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown with Perry Henry scoring the 2-point conversion with 30 seconds left to make the score 40-22.
The Hornets tried to score in the end, but Javonte Frazier intercepted a pass to run the clock out and seal up the victory for the Trojans.
“I thought our depth came in towards the end of the second half,” Woodard said. “We were fortunate enough to have played last week, and our guys were able to get some of that game time conditioning in last week. In the second half, I thought our offensive line did a better job of blocking and we did a better job of taking care of the football.”
Both teams started out a little sluggish as they committed several penalties in the first half.
On JFK’s first drive of the game, the Hornets were plagued by mistakes as they had an offsides penalty and two delay-of-game penalties to put the offense in a third-and-20 situation. On the next play, Burns intercepted a pass from JFK’s Ladaris Johnson and the Trojans had the ball at their own 20-yard line. JFK committed an unsportsmanlike penalty and a personal foul penalty that enabled the Trojans to move down the field. With 4:42 left in the first quarter, the versatile Burns, who was under center at quarterback, marched into the end zone on a five-yard keeper to put the Trojans on the board. Burns connected with Henry on the 2-point conversion pass to put East Side up 8-0.
The Hornets’ defense buckled down. The name of JFK linebacker Damion Hodges was called out quite frequently over the public address system as he recorded some key tackles that resulted in a loss of yardage. David Huffman, Carnez Gant and Johnson recorded key tackles with Gant breaking up a pass in the end zone towards the end of the first quarter to hold the Trojans at eight points. The Trojans also shot themselves in the foot in the first quarter as a potential touchdown pass was called back due to a penalty.
The Trojans’ defense made some big plays in the first half as Simeon Kimble, Dy’monquae Pates and Kaelan Hall each recorded pass break-ups.
For JFK, even though Johnson had a tough time completing passes for the Hornets, he was able to make things happen with his feet as he rushed for some big yardage. With 7:54 left in the second quarter, Johnson marched on a seven-yard touchdown run to put the Hornets on the board. Trevell Parris hit pay dirt on the 2-point conversion run to tie the game at 8-8.
Toward the end of the half, the Trojans’ defense was able to step up and hold the Hornets at bay to keep the game tied at 8-8 going into the lockerroom at halftime.
At the start of the quarter, the Hornets jumped out to a good start. The Hornets kicked off to East Side to start the second half, but the Trojans fumbled the ball and the Hornets recovered it at the East Side 32-yard line. With 10:04 left in the third quarter, Johnson connected with Gant on a 28-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, but JFK led 14-8.
When the Trojans got the ball back, they started a good drive, but Butler fumbled at the JFK 2-yard line and the Hornets recovered it to give them the ball at their own 2-yard line. With JFK deep in its own territory, the East Side defense went to work as Johnson was tackled in the end zone to give the Trojans a safety to cut the JFK lead at 14-10 with 6:25 still left in the quarter.
After JFK kicked the ball back off to East Side, the Trojans went back to work again as they went on another good drive. With 3:23 left in the third, Jalen Thomas went to the outside and galloped on a 16-yard touchdown run to give the Trojans the lead back. The 2-point conversion wasn’t successful, but East Side led 16-14.
The Hornets were able to score their final touchdown of the night when Johnson connected with Gant again on a 25-yard touchdown strike with 15 seconds left in the quarter. Gant scored the 2-point conversion to give JFK a 22-16 advantage going into the fourth quarter. The Hornets couldn’t get anything going in the final quarter.
“Depth was an issue,” JFK head football coach Sheldon Hodge said. “We were in pretty good condition. Toward the end, our conditioning failed and we had to go with some of our down-the-line people and they weren’t quite ready to take on the challenge.”
Butler led East Side’s ground attack with 176 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, followed by Eatmon with 87 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, Burns with 15 yards with a touchdown, two 2-point conversion runs and a 2-point conversion pass.
In the passing game for the Trojans, Dy’monquae Pates and Thomas were a combined 3-of-10 passing for 45 yards . Thomas also marched on a touchdown run.
East Side’s defense was led by Burns who recorded eight tackles, an interception and a sack, followed by Eatmon with eight tackles and a sack, Donte Chatman with seven tackles and Thomas with an interception return for a TD.
For JFK, Johnson led the offense by completing 5-of-11 passes for 91 yards with two touchdowns but three interceptions. Gant caught three passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 26 yards on six carries, while Xavier Roberts caught two passes for 37 yards to round out JFK’s offense.
Hodges led the way on defense for the Hornets.
East Side will travel to Oxford on Friday to play Oxford High School, while JFK will host West Tallahatchie on Friday in Mound Bayou.