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By Jeffery McClintock
The drought is over.
Marcus Jones led his merry band of Cavaliers, knocking off Amherst 24-21 with a strong display of moxie and true grit. Jones, who injured his ankle early in the fourth quarter, came back into the game after seeing the Lancers’ Sydney Sandidge score from 23 yards out to put the visitors up 21-17 with under five minutes to play in the ball game.
With Jones limited to passing only, the Lancer defense was able to force him into an incomplete pass on fourth-and-ten, and with less than three minutes left in the game, this one appeared to be over.
But somebody forgot to tell free safety Bailey Corell that. With the Lancers driving and clicking off precious seconds on the clock, Corell made his second big play of the night (his first coming when he blocked a Lancer field goal attempt at the end of the first half).
The Cav junior tracked down Lancer wideout Darius Wilson, who had the ball, merely needing to keep possession. Corell grabbed the top of the ball and spun it away from Wilson. For good measure, Corell scooped up the loose ball.
Corell explained what he saw on that big play: “Our coaches said ‘You grab him and go for the ball.’ They ran that little reverse, I came up behind him and grabbed him like that, and the ball fell right into my hands.”
That gave a first down to JF at the Amherst 42 with 1:47 left in the game. A first-down pass hit the ground, but on second down Jones hooked up with Dominquie Royal for a 28-yard gainer.
The Lancer defense stuffed Jones on the next play, setting JF up at the Lancer 15. Dropping back to pass, Jones saw an opening down the left side of the field, so he tucked it, and showing no ill effects of that ankle, sprinted down the sidelines. With an Amherst player draped over the top of him, Jones stretched the pigskin out, hitting the pylon. Touchdown, Forest. Dylan Sims’s point after proved true, and JF had the lead 24-21, with 51 ticks left on the play clock.
Coach Don Rice spoke on the toughness his quarterback displayed: “He couldn’t even walk on the sidelines. He comes in and I told him we were just going to stand there and throw it, and he takes (the team) 30 yards like it wasn’t a problem.”
Ah, but those pesky Lancers still had time on the clock. Working the sideline passing game, Lancer QB Kyle Edwards moved his team 16 yards in three plays. And more importantly, the Lancers’ economical use of the game clock had only taken 12 seconds.
On the fourth play of the drive, Edwards saw his receiver breaking down the right sideline and he heaved the long pass to Luther West at the Forest 30 yard line.
However, what Edwards did not see was Forest cornerback LJ White, who stepped in front of West for the interception. Ball game.
White explained how his night had gone: “I was ready for the ball. They were picking on me all night. I was sitting there waiting on it.”
Ah, redemption is sweet indeed.
With Jones taking the final snap in the victory formation the Cavs had their first win over Amherst County since a 14-12 victory in 2002.
He spoke about what this win means to this JF team saying, “It’s been a long time. I was a little kid the last time this happened. ”
After Jefferson Forest corrected its first half miscues, it was the Cavalier defense that turned the tables on the Lancers, forcing three fumbles and an interception in the second half.
Of note, Dominquie Royal had a huge reception early in the third quarter when he went up between two Lancer defenders for a 27 yard first down grab. Seven plays later Jones scored to give the Cavs a 17-14 lead. Royal also made a similar catch for 28 yards on that game-winning drive. He finished with three receptions for 79 yards.
Coach Rice had a twinkle in his eye when he spoke of the defensive effort, “Everybody did what they had to do. We have to create turnovers on defense, and to cause that turnover shows how much we’ve grown.”
As JF hadn’t beaten Amherst in such a long time, it might be okay for a coach to enjoy it for the night. But Rice was already thinking of Heritage who the Cavs play Friday night.
-Amherst threw for 226 yards on an 18/32 effort, but notched zero touchdowns through the air.
-Jones continued his dizzying season with 28 carries for 145 on the ground and 2 scores. He had another 138 yards in the air on an 8/22 effort.
-Small things matter. Dylan Sims 33 yard field goal middle second quarter proved to be the winning margin.
-Defensively, Mickey Wallman continued his strong season, recording 11 tackles including a couple for losses.