E.A. Sports Today

Soaring into playoffs

Wiggins, Jacksonville clip Holes Bluff, head to playoffs on four-game winning streak

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville seems to have straightened the ship after its loss to Piedmont a month ago and is steering in the right direction heading into the playoffs.

The Golden Eagles wrapped up their regular season Thursday night with a 35-14 win over Hokes Bluff and awaits Cordova in the opening round of the playoff after a bye week next Friday.

Hokes Bluff is headed to the playoffs, too, as the No. 4 seed out of the region.

It was Jacksonville’s fourth win in a row. It also was their ninth in a row over the Eagles and most one-sided in the series in since 2015. The last three games had been decided by a total of seven points.

Jacksonville coach Clint Smith said his teams has “just been more focused” since its loss to Piedmont a month ago. In the four game since, the Golden Eagles (8-2) have outscored their opponents 168-79. They have now won 20 region games in a row.
“We just wanted to go out and play inspired football and play with a purpose, and I felt like we did that tonight,” Smith said. “I was just pleased to see us come out and play the way that we did as far as just getting things done and getting ready to move into the playoffs.”

This was a game that matched two of the state’s best running backs and Jacksonville got the best of it.

Ron Wiggins rushed for 285 yards and Jacksonville’s first three touchdowns. Jae-Taj Morris rushed for 101 yards and a score, and Luke Jackson passed for 114 yards and a touchdown to Jaeden Barksdale.

In the other part of the running back matchup, the Jacksonville defense held Hokes Bluff’s Darrian Meads to 109 yards on 22 carries and no touchdowns. They held him to 47 yards over the final three quarters. His biggest run of the night was 13 yards in the first quarter, and then he fumbled on the next snap.
“Any time you play a back like Meads you know you have to bring your A-game,” Smith said. “I thought our defense knew what they were going to face tonight with him and what to expect from that guy. The last three years we’ve had some all-out wars. I think our defense really stepped up knowing they had to.”
“We knew we had to keep him hemmed up in the backfield,” said junior linebacker Jackson Moses, the Golden Eagles’ leading tackler in the game with seven solos and two for loss. “If he got some momentum going he’s hard to get down. We had to fill each and every gap and make sure we had him wrapped up. It’s hard to solo tackle that guy so sometimes you just have to keep him wrap up and makes sure the team fights for the football and gets him down before he gets momentum going. I think we did a good job of stopping him from breaking those big runs he’s had in the past.”
The Eagles didn’t have such luck against Wiggins. His first carry of the game went for 41 yards. He scored on runs of 11, 50 and 89 yards (weaving through the defense on his first carry of the third quarter). During the Golden Eagles’ four-game winning streak he has rushed for 849 yards and 17 touchdowns and even Smith admitted he’s “really turned it on” this second half of the season and going against another top back just added to the drive.
“Games like this I look forward to, but (a head-to-head matchup with another quality back) is the least of my worries,” Wiggins said. “The most I really worry about is getting the win. There’s a lot of hype behind it, but I try not to look forward to that. I just come out here and play.”

HB (14)Jax (35)
131st D18

Hokes Bluff    0 0  7  7  –  14
Jacksonville  14 0 14 7 – 35
Scoring plays 
J – Ron Wiggins 11 run (Mason Terrell kick), 7:20 1Q
J – Ron Wiggins 50 run (Mason Terrell kick), 2:06 1Q
J – Ron Wiggins 89 run (Mason Terrell kick), 8:58 3Q
J – Jaeden Barksdale 25 pass from Luke Jackson (Mason Terrell kick), 6:57 3Q
H – Ashton Gulledge 4 run (Jadan Burns kick), 1:04 3Q
J – Jae-Taj Morris 34 run (Mason Terrell kick), 9:48 4Q
H – Connor Faulkner 1 run (Jadan Burns kick), 3:35 4Q

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