The Grundy County Junior Jackets closed out their 2016 season by blasting the Whitwell Middle School Tigers 52 14 last Thursday night. The win gave the Junior Jackets an overall record of 5 2, while they were 3 2 in district play. The team said goodbye to 22 eighth graders as they played their last middle school game and hopefully they all will turn their attention to playing for the high school team in 2017. There are some gifted athletes on this team that truly could make the future bright at GCHS if they will stay together.
The Yellow Jackets wasted little time at Chris Pickett Stadium under overcast skies and temperatures in the low 50s amidst what I would call “perfect football weather”, as they moved 52 yards in five plays to get on the board. The conversion run failed and the hosts led 6 0 with :46 gone in the first quarter.
After the Jacket defense forced a three and out, a Tiger punt netted seven yards and the Jackets were in business at the Tiger 31. Tate once again scampered for pay dirt when he scooted through the left side of the line and sprinted to the end zone on the first play from scrimmage. QB Jaden Ruehling hit big tight end Thaddaues Blackburn for the two point conversion and the Jackets were ahead 14 0.
The Tigers seemed to have settled down and was marching down field when Tiger QB Corey Locklier hit wide out Cole Burns over the middle for a sizable gain. However, Jacket LB Jordan Hackworth chased Burns down from behind, stripped the football from his grasp, and recovered the fumble at the Jacket eight yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Tate broke two tackles near the line of scrimmage and set sail down the right sideline for a 92-yard touchdown and the route was on. Hackworth added the conversion run and the Jackets led 22 0 after one quarter, although they had the ball for a scant 1:05 of team possession during the quarter.
The Jackets didn’t let up in the second quarter. Hackworth sandwiched a 17-yard touchdown jaunt and a 21-yard touchdown dash around a pick six by Jacket LB Bailey Hill. After Whitwell put together a lengthy time consuming drive, the defense stiffened and took over on downs at their own 22 yard line. Six plays and 78 yards later the Jackets were in the end zone again with Hackworth’s first score. The score was set up by a 41-yard completion from Hill to Ruehling with 1:36 left in the first half. Kase King ran the conversion in for a 30 0 lead.
On the Tigers’ ensuing drive Hill picked off a Locklier pass at the Tiger 28 and raced into the end zone to put the Jackets up 36 0 with :47.8 left in the half. The conversion run failed. The Tigers’ troubles only worsened. Jacket cornerback Jacob Dixon recovered a Tiger fumble at the Tiger 21 and the Jackets were set to add to their scoring total. With :23.4 left in the first half Hackworth dashed into the end zone from 21 yards out and after a failed conversion attempt the Jackets went to intermission with a commanding 42 0 lead. The Jackets scored 42 first half points, while only possessing the football for only 3:34 of the half.
The second half started with a bang for the Tigers. Burns took the kickoff and raced 79 yards down the left sideline for the visitors first score. The conversion failed and just like that, the shutout was over. With a running clock in the second half, the Jackets managed one more touchdown on a 20-yard blast by Tate, his fourth of the game. Big Josh Childers plowed into the end zone for the two points and the Jackets had hit the 50-point mark with a 50 6 lead.
The Tigers added a 25-yard touchdown run by Locklier and a two-point conversion by Gage Gibson. The Jackets added a safety when Burns was tackled in the end zone trying to recover a bad pitch for the final points.
Offensively, Tate gained 175 yards on only five carries. Hackworth had 68 yards on four carries and Ruehling added 32 yards on five carries. Hackworth and Ruehling had a reception each.
Defensively, Walt Jones and Turner Cash had seven stops each. Holden Hargis and Childers had six tackles. King added five tackles. Hill and Hackworth had 4 tackles each, while Hackworth added a fumble recovery and Hill had a pick six. Dalton McDaniel, Dray Wise, Jacob Dixon, and Ruehling had 3 tackles. Dixon also recovered a fumble.
Head Coach Derryl Graham was elated with the way the team was able to send off this group of eighth graders with a win. He stated, “This group had worked so hard and for the eighth graders to go out like this is very satisfying.” He added, “I would like to thank all the parents, volunteers, and other supporters that have backed these young men all the way.”
The Junior Jackets had their third consecutive winning season and as I said earlier, they have laid a solid foundation for the future of Yellow Jacket football. Hopefully, this group will take that next step and continue their winning ways.