E.A. Sports Today

Tigers take down J’ville

Cleburne County fights through not playing its best, but has finds a way to beat Jacksonville

Jacksonville's Colton Clark (4) goes high over Cleburne County's Jeremiah Blake for an interception Friday night. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham)

Jacksonville’s Colton Clark (4) goes high over Cleburne County’s Jeremiah Blake for an interception Friday night. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HEFLIN — Cleburne County didn’t play one of its best games Friday night but the Tigers still managed to score an important victory and in that there is a lesson.

The Tigers stayed on track to secure a home playoff game with a crucial 29-14 win over Jacksonville at L.E. Bell Field.

The win allowed the Tigers (5-1, 4-0) to put some distance between itself and the Golden Eagles (4-3, 2-2) in the 4A Region 6 standings while keeping pace for a projected showdown with co-leader Saks.

Still, they made enough mistakes to let them know they still have work to do.

“We may not have executed as good as we normally have, but our kids found a way to win,” Tigers coach Michael Shortt said. “Good football teams figure out a way to win when you’re not playing well.

“Every year you’re going to have one of these games. Any team that wins a regional championship or wins a conference championship in college or the pros somewhere down the line they have to play a bad game and win it.

“I’m not saying we played just bad, but we didn’t play up to par of what we’re expected of. But our kids found a way to win and that’s the big thing.”

The Tigers scored on three of their first four possessions and opened a 20-7 halftime lead. They would have scored on all four had the Golden Eagles not made a fourth-down stop in the red zone and probably would have scored a lot more had they been a lot sharper.

They did, after all, lose two fumbles, were intercepted twice and had a long second-half kickoff return negated by a penalty. Three instances of offsetting personal fouls illustrated the chippiness of the game.

“We came out tonight and may have had too big a head, maybe felt we were better than we really were,” quarterback Brock Swafford said. “Turnovers almost cost us the game; we’ve got to get better on that, but I think we’re going to get better these next two weeks and by the time Week 8 (at Saks) comes around we’ll be ready.”

Trevor Houston scored on a 12-yard run, Mario Smith rumbled 10 yards for a score and Brock Swafford hit Jeremiah Blake on a 55-yard pass in stride for the third score.

Jacksonville (4-3, 2-2) answered the long touchdown pass with one of its own. Quen Veasley hit Scout Spears in front of Blake for a 32-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-12.

The Tigers scored a safety and an Easton Clark touchdown in the second half. Jacksonville tried to mount a comeback behind Veasley.

The Golden Eagles’ quarterback scored on a 10-yard run in the fourth quarter to cut Cleburne’s lead to 29-14. He was driving them towards another score that would’ve given them a chance for an onside kick to make things interesting, but their fourth-down play was stopped at the 3.

“We kind of laid it on the line right there and we never quit; we just came up a yard short there,” Jacksonville coach Clint Smith said. “Our kids fought and played hard and did everything we could do. It’s just one of those nights they made more plays than we did. We just made too many mistakes at crucial times that kind of turned the momentum at different points in the game.”

Veasley ended up with 69 yards rushing in the game, but most of that came in the fourth quarter. He also was 6-of-19 passing for 74 yards. Nico Richmond rushed for 68 yards and Tae Ackles had 46 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving.

Swafford was 7 of 12 passing for 119 yards at the half and finished 8 of 17 for 125 yards. J’son Henson rushed for 154 yards on 12 carries and Clark rushed for 78. Blake caught four balls for 99 yards – all in the first half.

“For us to be able to win is great and all, but we made a lot of mistakes and they are things we have to fix and things we’re going to fix come Monday at practice,” senior running back Noah Ware said. “People have to step up.

“We’re definitely not as good as we think we are and we have a lot of work to do for us to be able to hit that point where we are as good as we are and achieve more after that. I know I’m not at my best right now. We have to keep pushing for it.”

Cleburne County's Wade Dasinger (44) brings down Jacksonville's Tahj Kirkland. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham)

Cleburne County’s Wade Dasinger (44) brings down Jacksonville’s Tahj Kirkland. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham)


Jacksonville 0 7 0 7 — 14
Cleburne Co. 14 6 2 7 — 29

C – Trevor Houston 12 run (Hunter Carlile kick), 8:37 1Q
C – Mario Smith 10 run (Carlile kick), 4:24 1Q
C – Jeremiah Blake 55 pass from Brock Swafford (kick failed), 9:05 2Q
J – Scout Spears 32 pass from Quen Veasley (Preston Harvey kick), 6:06 2Q
C – Safety, punter tackled in end zone, 6:34 3Q
C – Easton Clark 5 run (Carlile kick), 9:45 4Q
J – Veasley 10 run (Harvey kick), 7:11 4Q

Team stats J CC
First downs 13 19
Rushes-yds 47-133 44-281
C-A-I 6-19-0 8-17-2
Passing yds 74 124
Fumbles-lost 4-2 2-2
Punts-avg 6-42.1 2-26.0
Penalties-yds 8-90 8-105

On the cover: Cleburne County coach Michael Shortt (Photo by Jonathan Fordham)

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