By Matt Nestor
It takes a lot of bad bounces to lose 17 straight games over two years. But all it takes is a few lucky bounces to break that streak.
The Jefferson J-Hawks (1-1), led by a ferocious defense that forced five Auburn turnovers, defeated the Knights 34-12.
“Our defense stayed in there, and they kept playing tough,” Jefferson Head Coach Franklin Craig said. “At the beginning of the game, they were moving on us, and we got scared a little bit, but we told them just to stay with it, and it began to work.”
The game started like many others had during the losing streak. After a quick three-and-out, the Knights marched the ball 67 yards down the field, capped by a 4-yard touchdown by junior running back Justin Graves.
The Auburn defense stood tough again to force a quick punt. But after pinning the Knights on their own 14-yard-line, the J-Hawks forced a fumble that was recovered by senior Marcus Marshall in the end zone to tie the game at 6-6.
The score stayed tied until the half, and Auburn (0-2) had outgained Jefferson 100 yard to 15 yards. But the J-Hawks were just getting started.
“We had to bring it together,” junior linebacker Gerrion Jones said. “It was just pre-game jitters. We had to get warmed up. Our team just came together, and we did what we had to do.”
Jefferson took a 14-6 lead on a 3-yard touchdown by senior Jesse Jordan, and clung to that lead until the fourth quarter. That’s when senior quarterback Mike Dalsanto, who only attempted seven passes all game, hit junior Xaiver Butler for a 63-yard touchdown.
“We were running this play we were setting up throughout the whole game, a little outside wheel,” Dalsanto, who finished 3-7 passing for 81 yards, said. “We threw a little post corner route on the outside because they kept biting on it. It was wide open.”
Auburn junior Bruce Whitaker scored a late touchdown to pull the Knights to within 10 points. But touchdowns by Jefferson’s Royce Dixon and Crissen Murphy finished off the scoring.
Dixon rushed for 41 yards and Murphy had 42 yards. Graves led Auburn with 52 yards.
Jefferson outgained Auburn in the second half by more than 50 yards, and was able to work with a short field, thanks to four second-half turnovers. Dalsonto said the J-Hawks almost wish they could add one more quarter to the game.
“There’s something about our offense, we just got to get warmed up,” Dalsonto said. “When we start clicking, we don’t stop. If the game was longer, I don’t know what would happen because our offense is crazy in the second half.”
After the game, the J-Hawks doused their coach in Gatorade, and carried him around midfield, satisfied to end their long losing streak. And despite the early fall weather, Craig said he enjoyed every moment of his Friday night shower.
“It’s kind of cold a little bit,” he said, “but I’m happy to get one.”
In other NIC-10 action:
• The Guilford Vikings (1-1) hung tight with Boylan for three quarters. But Steve Thomas scored his second touchdown for the Titans (2-0) in the fourth quarter to top the Vikings 21-3.
• Demetris Fambro rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown, and Keenan Kellett threw for 125 yards and three touchdowns as the Harlem Huskies (1-1) rebounded for a 31-12 victory over the Belvidere North Blue Thunder (0-2).
• The East E-Rabs (1-1), led by Zach Mutton’s 78 yards rushing and 25 yards receiving, ran wild over the Freeport Pretzels (1-1) for their first victory in Freeport since 1999.
• Chase Robinson and Forrest Wiltfang both rushed for more than 100 yards as the Hononegah Indians (2-0) crushed Belvidere (1-1) by a final score of 34-14.
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From the September 9-15, 2009 issue