E.A. Sports Today

Up off the deck

Jacksonville bounces back from big opening play against it to crush Randolph in playoff opener

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — There’s no better wake-up call for a defense than getting smacked in the mouth on the first play of the game.

Randolph’s Levon Fletcher did just that to Jacksonville on the first snap of Friday’s Class 4A playoff game. The Troy commit went off the right side for 64 yards and two plays later the Raiders had the lead.

But much like a boxer who gets knocked on his keister in the opening seconds of a prize fight, the Golden Eagles would have none of that anymore. They shut down Fletcher and the Raiders the rest of the game and went on to score a 43-13 victory for their first playoff win since 2014.

Jacksonville coach Clint Smith said that first play could have tipped the balance of the game depending his his team reacted to it, but he was proud of the way it got off the mat and retook control.

The Golden Eagles (8-3) held Fletcher to 28 yards net rushing after that initial burst and the Raiders to minus-8 net rushing as a team the rest of the game.

“I think that play woke us up,” Jakobie Calloway said. “It was time to get our game face on and play harder. I think we came out there with not as much intensity as we should have that first drive and that was a big wake-up call. After the first big play we got our heads together and came together as a unit and played lights out.”

While the defense adjusted and bottled up the Randolph offense, the Golden Eagles’ ground game was virtually unstoppable. Macey Carr (188) and Rontarius Wiggins (128) both had more than 100 yards rushing. Kirkland went for 50.

Wiggins had two touchdowns, while Carr, Colton Clark, Jakobie Calloway and Tahj Kirkland had one each. In all, Jacksonville rushed for 372 yards as a team; the Golden Eagles had one more carry than the Raiders had net rushing yards.

“It’s good to see those guys kind of spell each other and each one offers a certain thing,” Smith said. “They just do a good job complementing each other and they did a good job tonight.”

The ground game completely dominated the second quarter. Jacksonville rushed for 141 yards in the quarter alone and scored a pair of touchdowns three and a half minutes apart. The half ended with Preston Harvey attempting a 46-yard field goal attempt on the final play.

It was so complete, the Raiders (6-5) hardly touched the ball. They ran only 20 plays in eight possessions over the final three quarters. They only things that created any offense for them after that first snap was a 40-yard pass later in the first quarter, a 17-yard run by Fletcher and Fletcher’s 30-yard pass on the final play of the game.

“We really focus on not letting people run the ball on us,” Josh Glass said. “That first play lit a fire in everybody. Everybody remembered we’ve got to go out and play, and we did.”

After its eighth win following an 0-3 start, Jacksonville travels to Fayette County (9-2) for its second round playoff game next week.

Jacksonville 43, Randolph 13

Rand (13) Jville (43)
3First downs18
92Passing yds53

Randolph 7 0 0 6 — 13
Jacksonville 7 14 7 15 — 43

R – Levon Fletcher 4 run (David Slyman kick), 11:23 1Q
J – Macey Carr 7 run (Preston Harvey kick), 3:16 1Q
J – Colton Clark 4 run (Preston Harvey kick), 6:38 2Q
J – Jakokbie Calloway 6 run (Preston Harvey kick), 3:02 2Q
J – Tahj Kirkland 1 run (Preston Harvey kick), 3:20 3Q
J – Rontarius Wiggins 4 run (Preston Harvey kick), 9:58 4Q
R – Levon Fletcher 95 kickoff return (kick blocked), 9:36 4Q
J – Safety, Omarion Adams tackles Jeffrey Copeland in end zone
J – Rontarius Wiggins 47 run (kick failed), 1:29 4Q

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