The Grundy County Yellow Jackets traveled to Ezell – Harding Christian School last Friday night, and dropped their first game of the 2018 season 33 – 14 to the home stand-ing Eagles. The loss evened the Jackets season record at 1 – 1.
“I thought we should have won Friday night and we had the opportunity to win but we started slow. We made too many mis-takes, fumbled the ball too much, and didn’t make the plays we were supposed to make,” stated Head Coach Tracy Hayworth after the game. “It showed me we have a lot of growing up to do. We are still young with a lot of freshmen and sophomores sprinkled in with a couple of juniors and seniors and we will begin to win ballgames like that.”
The Jackets hit the road again tomorrow night (Friday). They will make the long journey to Jame-stown near the Kentucky border, to take on the York Institute Dragons. It will be the Region 4 – 3A opener for both teams. The Dragons are off to a 2 – 0 start with back to back shutouts of Cumberland County (41 – 0) and Coal-field (21 – 0).
Last Friday night, the Jackets were victims of the big play by Ezell – Harding. After the Jackets moved to near midfield with the opening kickoff, senior Jaden Nance pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory at the 16-yard line with a 35-yard punt. The punt put the Jacket de-fense in good position, but it was short lived. On their first play from scrimmage, one of the Eagles speedy weapons took a handoff and cut off left tackle and streaked to pay dirt with an 84-yard touchdown. The PAT kick was good and the Eagles had stunned their visitors with a 7 – 0 lead with 8:09 left in the first stanza.
Three plays later, the Jackets fumbled the foot-ball away, and the Eagles were in business at the Jacket 38-yard line. On third and 11, the Eagles QB hit a receiver that got be-hind the Jacket secondary for another Eagle touch-down. The PAT gave the Eagles a 14 – 0 lead with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
The Jackets were una-ble to move the ball and punted back to the Eagles. The Jackets had an oppor-tunity towards the end of the first quarter and at the beginning of the second quarter after recovering a bad snap on a punt attempt by the Eagles. However, Nance’s 39-yard field goal was short of the mark.
The Jackets forced an Eagle punt, recovered a lost fumble, and had two Nathan Coffelt intercep-tions, but couldn’t capital-ize. The Jackets had two punts of their own and threw an interception of their own. The second punt pinned the Eagles back at their own 10 yard line, but on the ensuing play the Eagle QB hit a re-ceiver down the left hash and he outran the Jacket defenders to the end zone for a 90-yard touchdown reception. The PAT was good and with 4:03 left in the half the home team led 21 – 0. The Eagles took that lead to the locker room at intermission.
After the Jackets kicked off to the Eagles to start the second half, lanky sophomore Zach Campbell forced a wide and errant pitch on an option play and sophomore Jordan Hack-worth pounced on the loose pigskin and the Jackets had the ball at the Eagle 40-yard line.
The Jackets rode the momentum of the turno-ver and went 40 yards in seven plays.
Burly freshman Gavin Tate and senior QB Ethan Nunley pounded the ball straight ahead on the first six plays setting up junior Evan Nunley’s 7-yard scamper around left end to pay dirt and the Jackets first score of the night. The PAT failed and with 7:16 left in the third quarter the Jackets trailed 21 – 6. The Jackets were showing their fans they weren’t going without a fight.
The Eagles countered with what would be their longest drive of the night. They moved from their own 47 to the Jacket five yard line on a 13 play, 48-yard drive. The drive end-ed when Ethan Nunley stuffed the Eagle runner for a one yard gain that left the hosts short of the goal line.
The Jacket offense went back to work and on the second play of the final stanza QB Ethan Nunley hit Coffelt with a short pass and the speedy junior re-ceiver turned the catch in-to a 55-yard play to put the Jackets at the Eagles 36-yard line. The big third and four conversion at their own nine yard line was just what the Jackets needed in the big play department. Seven plays later Ethan Nunley took the snap and rammed into the end zone from the two yard line and repeated the act on the two point conversion and the Jackets were in striking distance with 7:57 to play at 21 – 14.
A failed onside kick at-tempt gave the Eagles the ball at their own 41-yard line. Two plays later the Eagle QB kept the ball and cut outside and down the left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown. After a bad snap on the PAT, the Jack-ets were able to deny the conversion and the Eagles led 27 – 14 with 6:59 left. The score took a lot of the wind out of the hardwork-ing Jackets’ sail.
The Jackets couldn’t move the ball on their next possession and after a Jacket punt the Eagles scored again on a 27-yard touchdown pass with 2:48 left. The PAT failed and the Eagles put the final points on the board at 33 – 14.
Sophomore Jaden Ruehling, who had played QB in the second quarter for a few snaps, re – en-tered the game and went 5 for 8 in the final two minutes, but the drive stalled at the Eagle 13-yard line. The Eagles took a knee and secured their first victory and evened their record at 1- 1.
The Jackets, offensive-ly, had 117 yards rushing and 165 yards passing for 282 total yards. The Eagles amassed 284 total yards of total offense. The differ-ence was the Jackets ran 56 plays and the Eagles needed only 46 plays to reach their total.
Tate led the rushing at-tack with 43 yards on 11 carries. The Nunley broth-ers weren’t far behind. Ethan had 40 yards on 11 carries and Evan had 35 yards on 10 carries. Ethan was 2 for 9 through the air for 68 yards and no inter-ceptions. Ruehling was 6 for 14 for 97 yards and one pick.
Coffelt snared four aer-ials for 81 yards, Ethan Chouinard had two catches for 43 yards, and Hack-worth caught two passes for 31 yards.
Defensively, Evan Nun-ley had seven tackles, Hackworth had six tackles, and freshman big man Cannon Ramsey and Ethan Nunley had five stops. Hackworth had a fumble recovery, Coffelt two in-terceptions, and Ramsey had a sack.
“I feel like I could have done a better job with clock management that could have helped us in certain situations,” ex-plained Hayworth. “A posi-tive upside is I thought my guys competed and didn’t quit but we still have a lot of growing and a lot of work to do.
“We have to put the mistakes behind us and concentrate in our next game with York.
“York is a physical team with more size than us but I feel like we will have more team speed than they will. I think if we make plays and make tackles we will be alright,” concluded Hayworth.
As I mentioned earlier, the Jackets open Region 4 – 3A action tomorrow night in Jamestown, against York Institute. Game time is 7 p.m. Head Coach Tracy Hayworth, his staff, and these young men would greatly appreciate every-one that can make the trip northward. This group has been working extremely hard as evidence of their effort in the first two games. Get out and sup-port the Yellow Jackets tomorrow night!