E.A. Sports Today

Golden Eagles fired up

Wiggins runs for 268 yards, 5 TDs as Jacksonville holds off Anniston in battle of region unbeatens

Ron Wiggins breaks off another long run against Anniston. On the cover, Wiggins and quarterback Luke Jackson (10) celebrate the big region victory. (Photos by Coley Birchfield)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

People know about Rob Wiggins now, so he doesn’t quite sneak up on folks like he did last year. But Friday night he returned to the Ron Wiggins of old.

At the same time Jacksonville coach Clint Smith saw glimpses of something he had seen in his teams before, but was waiting for it to emerge in this one. He saw the fire that was there in the past and would like to think it’s there from this day forward.

Wiggins rushed for a season high 269 yards and five touchdowns and the Golden Eagles needed all of it in edging Anniston 38-30 in a separation game of region undefeateds at Lott-Mosby Stadium.

Jacksonville and Anniston came into the game part of a three-team bloc of unbeatens in Class 4A Region 6. By winning Friday and spoiling Anniston’s Homecoming, Jacksonville (5-2) moves into its own Homecoming matchup next week with Oneonta (4-2), the other remaining undefeated team, playing for the top spot in the region.
“We just challenged them to go out and play Jacksonville football the way we know we can play and they responded to that,” Smith said. “That was the message in the locker room before we went out: We’re 3-0 in the region, they’re 3-0 in the region, let’s go win this thing. Whoever wins this is really taking a big step forward. It was a big game and our guys rose up to the occasion.”
Nobody rose higher than Wiggins. He scored on runs of 4, 47, 61, 70 and 22 yards. The 70-yarder impressed Smith the most for the way the senior just suddenly appeared in the end zone, but none of Wiggins’ scores was bigger than his last one.
The Golden Eagles had to withstand a furious Anniston comeback before they could secure the victory and it was Wiggins who held the Bulldogs back. Jacksonville was up 12-0 early, 24-14 at halftime and by 17 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs (3-3) closed the gap to 31-30 with 4:02 to play.

Wiggins gave them breathing room with a 22-yard TD run with 2:49 to play and the Jacksonville defense denied the Bulldogs’ potential game-tying drive at the end of the game.

“Tonight was big, especially for me,” he said. “I knew Anniston was going to try to box me and limit me in rushing yards. The first half I was eating them up a little bit and then in the second half they made some adjustments and started stopping the run game al ittle bit. But we tightened it up, got that little push and we got the win. It’s big for us because we’ve got something to prove. We need a region championship again.”
Anniston closed the gap with touchdowns by A.J. Brown and Tyree Carmichael 70 seconds apart. Brown scored on a 3-yard run, Anniston regained possession after a Wiggins fumble, and Carmichael went 12 yards and Brown added the two-point conversion to make it 31-30.
Yessman Green’s return and a personal foul on Anniston brought the ensuing kickoff across midfield. Five plays later Wiggins was in the end zone with the insurance touchdown.
“I felt like tonight we came out and played with the fire that I had seen at times,” Smith said. “I’ve seen it in spurts this year; I hadn’t seen it consistently and I felt like tonight we showed that fire — us as a team seeing something we want to accomplish and going and getting it.

“I’ve seen it, but it was kind of permanent in tonight’s game. That’s what it’s going to take to continue winning in this region.”

Sam Dingler did everything he could to see the Bulldogs weren’t going to break his team’s heart. He either stopped or disrupted each of the Bulldogs’ first three plays – all runs by Anniston quarterback Daveon Dukes. A motion penalty negated a long gain by A.J. Brown, then in the final minute the Golden Eagles knocked down three straight passes from Dukes to turn end the threat.
“I just wanted to get in there and do my job and make sure nothing got outside of me and I just responded well,” Dingler said. “When I went out when my calves cramped up it was like 31-22 and then I looked back up and it was 31-30. I had to get in there and help my guys out.”
The Bulldogs rallied once earlier in the game. They erased that early 12-0 deficit by taking a 14-12 lead midway through the second quarter, but Jacksonville retook the lead with two Wiggins touchdowns in the final three minutes of the half.
“We played lousy all night and then finally got a rhythm going and we got things going and I guess we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Anniston coach Rico White said. “Penalties killed us tonight. The kids played hard. Jacksonville’s a good team. We know the running back is great. I said the other day we’ve got to stop him. I’m proud of my kids when adversity set in, just fight, fight, fight.
“They’re a playoff team. I feel we’re one. We just have to finish business and go from there. I’m proud that the kids performed the way they did, we just didn’t finish.”

Jax (38)Ann (30)
141st Downs14

Jacksonville     12        12        7          7          –          38        
Anniston         0          14        0          16        –          30
Scoring plays
J – Ron Wiggins 4 run (kick failed), 5:10 1Q
J – Ron Wiggins 47 run (run failed), 3:52 1Q
A – Tyree Carmichael 51 run (Kevin Escareno kick), 11:47 2Q
A – A.J. Brown (Kevin Escareno kick), 7:58 2Q
J – Ron Wiggins 61 run (kick failed), 3:28 2Q
J – Yessman Green 12 pass from Luke Jackson (run failed), 16.6 2Q
J – Ron Wiggins 70 run (Mason Terrell kick), 1:24 3Q
A – A.J. Brown 3 run (A.J. Brown run), 5:12 4Q
A – Tyree Carmichael 12 run (A.J. Brown run), 4:02 4Q
J – Ron Wiggins 22 run (Mason Terrell kick), 2:49 4Q

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