E.A. Sports Today

The gold standard

Decked out in new all-gold uniforms, Jacksonville takes down Piedmont behind stout defense, 4 Wiggins TDs

Jacksonville’s Ron Wiggins rushed for 172 yards and four touchdowns Friday against Piedmont. In his last four games he has rushed for 1,044 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has more than 1,350 rushing yards this season. (All photos by B.J. Franklin)

To see a gallery of photos from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — It was a night of nostalgia at Jacksonville’s homecoming Friday night.

Wearing all gold uniforms for the first time since before the turn of the century and playing a neighbor they hadn’t faced in more than 20 years, the Golden Eagles turned in a complete performance and knocked off Piedmont 28-21.

There was a lot of history surrounding the game and its outcome. The teams were playing for the first time since 1997 and the first time in Jacksonville since 1996, although they have participated in a couple preseason jamborees in the interim.

Eighth-grader Jack Hayes (14) drew his first varsity start as Piedmont’s quarterback against undefeated Jacksonville when senior captain Mason Mohon was held out the first half.

And Jacksonville winning snapped Piedmont’s 11-game regular-season winning streak and its 21-game winning streak against in-county competition. The last Calhoun County team to beat the Bulldogs was Saks in October 2013.

Golden Eagles coach Clint Smith ranked the win “right up there” with the biggest in his tenure.

“This is huge for our program, it’s huge for our community and our kids who work their tails off,” Golden Eagles coach Clint Smith said. “Here are Jacksonville we’ve really been working on building and creating a program that we can consistently sustain a high level. To go 6-0, to beat a team the caliber of Piedmont that has so much tradition and done so many things over the past decade … it was just a great win for us.

“I was proud of how we played four quarters and we did it with offense and defense. Offensively we answered and put points on the board. Defensively we made some huge stops down here and turned them over on downs several times. I’m really proud of the way they played as a team. Played really well, played with confidence. I was just proud of them.”

Jacksonville’s Ron Wiggins rushed for 172 yards and four touchdowns — matching the number on the gold jersey last worn by the Golden Eagles in the late 90s when his father E.J. played for them. He scored on runs of 11, 34, 1 and 10 yards; he has scored 18 rushing touchdowns over the last four games.

Smith distributed the gold pants to the players as a matter of course. The rest of the ensemble — jerseys with “The Ville” emblazoned across the chest — the players found in their lockers after a team meeting before the game.

“We just felt like it was a good night to break it out, so we broke it out and the kids loved it,” Smith said. “There aren’t a whole lot of teams that have gold in their colors. I love the gold. I think it’s unique so we’re going to use it.”

Versatile defender Omarion Adams said the new uniforms gave the 4A No. 6 Golden Eagles “a little power” in the closing minutes of the game when it got tight. Adams was credited with nine tackles and two sacks, Joseph Bolton had six tackles and all three of Taye Loud’s tackles were for losses. You bet those uniforms will be used again.

“We played good tonight,” Adams said. “Everybody had to trust each other and when we trust each other we all do our jobs and get the job done. When they got in the red zone we all just looked at each other and said it’s crunch time. Everybody got right and we did it up.”

Piedmont, the second-ranked team in Class 3A this week, had won its last two games in the final minute and came within inches of putting themselves in position to pull out another one despite Jacksonville’s best defensive effort.

Quarterback Mason Mohon hit Carl Myers with an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:45 left and then ran in the conversion to cut Jacksonville’s lead to 28-21. Myers then appeared to recover the insides kick, but the ball had crossed the sideline before he could control it and Jacksonville was able to run out the clock.

“Our guys battled hard,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “We made a little run right there at the end, but Jacksonville’s got a really good football team, they deserved to win the game. We sputtered too much on offense and gave up big plays a couple times on defense. We didn’t do the job to win the game.”

T.J. Fairs (1) gave Piedmont a spark with two big punt returns. One set up a touchdown and the other he returned for a score.

The Jacksonville defense didn’t make it easy on the Bulldogs. The Golden Eagles held them to just 22 yards rushing and 143 yards total. They turned the Bulldogs back twice on fourth down in the red zone.

Until Mohon directed the late touchdown drive, Piedmont’s two most positive plays in the game were punt returns by T.J. Fairs. One set up the Bulldogs’ first touchdown and the other was returned for a score that got them within 20-13 with 8:22 to play.

“Jacksonville brought a lot of pressure all night long and it affected a lot of our plays,” Smith said. “We just didn’t get it done.”

Mohon was held out of the first half for what Smith described as a “Piedmont issue,” giving eighth-grader Jack Hayes his first varsity start. Hayes directed the offense on six possessions and scored the Bulldogs’ first touchdown of the game – his first varsity touchdown – on a 4-yard run in the second quarter.

Mohon started the second half and played the rest of the game. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 74 yards on the final touchdown drive.

“Jack’s going to be fine,” Smith said. “I have the utmost confidence in both our guys who play quarterback. Sometimes things happen and decisions are made for various reasons, but I’m proud of our guys and thought both those guys played hard tonight.

“Our guys are competitors. I don’t ever count our guys out. They’re going to play hard to the very end. They’re a resilient bunch. I expect all of our guys to play hard. They expect to win when they come on the field. Tonight we dug ourselves a little bit more of a hole than we could get out of.”

Jacksonville 28, Piedmont 21
Team stats Pied Jax

First downs 11 18
Rushes-yds 29-22 42-234
Passes 9-18-0 9-15-2
Passing yds 121 105
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Punts-avg 5-31.8 4-39.8
Penalties-yds 5-55 12-118

Scoring summary
Piedmont 0 7 0 14 – 21
Jacksonville 6 14 0 8 – 28

J – Ron Wiggins 11 run (kick failed), 9:27 1Q
J – Ron Wiggins 34 run (pass failed), 8:52 2Q
P – Jack Hayes 4 run (Brant Deerman kick), 1:10 2Q
J – Ron Wiggins 1 run (Carter Landers pass from Luke Jackson), 20.6 2Q
P – T.J. Fairs 44 punt return (kick failed), 8:22 4Q
J – Ron Wiggins 4 run (Ron Wiggins run), 3:46 4Q
P – Carl Myers 18 pass from Mason Mohon (Mason Mohon run), 1:45 4Q

Jacksonville’s Sam Dingler (27) chases down Piedmont quarterback Mason Mohon during the second half Friday night.

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