You hear all football analysts and coaches, past and present, constantly saying, “Execution, cut out your penalties, and don’t turn the ball over and you will win more than you lose.” This was so true last Friday night as the Grundy County Yellow Jackets dropped a 13¬12 homecoming game decision to the defending Region 43A champions, the Upperman Bees.
The Yellow Jackets dominated the game on the line of scrimmage for the better part of three and half quarters during the game played under a harvest full moon on a fall-like evening in the last days of the summer of 2016. The inspired Jackets played with a confidence throughout the game that they were serving notice to the region – they are in it to win it.
The Jackets totally dominated the first half with two long touchdown runs in the second quarter. They also had two other golden opportunities as they drove as far as the Bees 10 yard line on the opening drive before a bad pitch for a loss of 15 yards and a fourth down interception ended the threat. Later in the first quarter, the Jackets moved to the Upperman 16, but turned the ball over on downs.
In the second quarter, sophomore running back Josh Wingo capped a seven play, 85-yard drive with a 48-yard dash to pay dirt to put the Jackets on the board 60. The snap on the PAT was low, and the Jacket holder tried to pass for two points and the pass was incomplete.
On the ensuing Bee drive, freshman safety Evan Nunley picked off a Bee aerial and the Jackets were in business again at their own 32. After a 33-yard jaunt by Wingo, senior running back Matt Burrows took a pitch and set sail down the right sideline for a 36-yard touchdown run and the Jackets were up 120. This time the PAT kick sailed wide right.
The Bees settled down in the second half, but the Jacket defense was still in command. A Johnny Adkins 15-yard interception return of a Bees pass thwarted Upperman’s opening drive of the second half. The Jackets were in good shape at the Bees’ 32 after the pick and a 15-yard facemask penalty. However, the Jackets couldn’t take advantage at what would be Grundy’s best field position of the second half.
The Jackets maintained their lead until midway of the fourth quarter when the Bees began their rally. The Bees went 83 yards in nine plays to get on the scoreboard. A 14-yard scoring pass from Upperman QB Duke Maresh to Brett Burish and a successful PAT kick by Allen Fields pulled the visitors within 12-¬7 with 4:45 to play. The key play was a fourth and 13 pass completion and a 15-yard facemask penalty that moved the Bees to the Jacket 14 yard line.
The Bees recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and took over at the Jacket 49. The stunned Jackets were hit with a four-play, 49-yard drive by the Bees. The Jackets forced Maresh out of the pocket and as he began to scramble found Izaya Kennedy all alone in the end zone from 24 yards out for the touchdown. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete and the Bees led 1312 with 3:16 left in the game.
The Jackets had one more chance, but an interception ended their hopes. The loss dropped the Jackets to 1 4 on the season and 1 1 in region play.
Offensively, the Jackets racked up 292 yards on the ground. Wingo was the workhorse as he scampered for 192 yards on 17 carries. Defensively, Wingo led the way there as well with 11 hits. Dewayne Grooms and James McDaniel had eight and seven tackles, respectively. Corbin Lusk added seven hits as well, while Daygon Dodson and Ethan Nunley added six hits each.
Once again, the turnover bug bit the Jackets as they lost two fumbles and had three passes intercepted.
Coach Casey Tate was still proud of the effort. “I’m very proud of the way this team is playing. We have to continue to work on eliminating penalties, and executing our assignments on every play, including special teams. We had some good practices this past week with everybody contributing and we came out and played that way. We will go back to work and get ready for South Pittsburg and continue to improve.”
The Jackets host the Pirates tomorrow night at Crisp Field on the GCHS campus. Game time is 7 p.m.