The Grundy County Junior Jackets lost their first game of the season last Thursday night to the South Pittsburg Academy Pirates 3814. The Junior Jackets are now 31 overall and 21 in district play. They travel to Jasper tonight to take on the Jasper Middle School Warriors at 6 p.m.
The Pirates, obviously the toughest competition thus far, was strong defensively. However, the Junior Jacket defense held their own as the teams played to a scoreless first quarter.
The Pirates scored first in the second quarter set up by a 28-yard punt return to the Jacket 22-yard line. Six plays later Gavin Cooper swept into the left side of the end zone and the hosts led 60. The conversion run failed.
The Jackets countered with a 10 play, 59-yard drive. A three-yard Jaden Ruehling to Thaddaues Blackburn pass for the touchdown and Gavin Tate’s two-point conversion run gave the Junior Jackets the lead with 40 seconds left in the first half. Jordan Hackworth’s 33-yard jaunt to the Pirate 16 yard line set up the go-ahead score.
The second half belonged to the Pirates. Brayden Sanders got the scoring started with a 49-yard sprint to the end zone for the touchdown on the fourth play of the second half. Cooper ran for the conversion and the Pirates were ahead 148.
The lone bright spot for the Jackets in the second half came when Tate fielded the ensuing kickoff and broke several tackles and sped to the end zone to tie the score at 1414. The conversion run failed and with only a minute and 15 seconds gone in the half it seemed as if the half would turn into a track meet.
However, the Pirates sandwiched two methodical time consuming drives around a Junior Jacket three and out and the game was decided. Each of the Pirate drives ended in one-yard plunges and successful two point conversions. The Pirates lead was 3014 with only 3:58 left in the contest.
Forced to play catch up, the Jackets had to gamble deep in their own territory and turned the ball over on a fumbled snap on fourth down at their own 14. With only 1:57 remaining, instead of running out the clock the Pirates threw a touchdown pass on the first play. The two-point conversion made the final 3814.
Offensively, Hackworth led the Jackets with 67 yards on seven carries, while Tate was held to 25 yards on 10 totes.
Defensively, Ruehling led the way with nine tackles. Dray Wise and Gavin McDaniel had eight and seven stops, respectively. Kase King contributed six tackles, while Walt Jones, Bailey Hill, and Hackworth had five each.
Head Coach Derryl Graham had this to say about the game: “Our boys played hard and it was a better game than the score would indicate. We have to put this one behind us and move on to Jasper.”
The Junior Jackets district game tonight against the Warriors will be tough as their lone loss came at the hands of the Pirates. Graham offered, “We have a great group of kids and we are very proud of them and I know they will bounce back and be ready for Jasper.” He added, “Once again, I want to thank the fans for their wonderful support.”