E.A. Sports Today

Finally, their shot

Jacksonville playing for state title for first time, one of 3 Calhoun County teams this year making the finals

Jacksonville coach Clint Smith reacts after getting an ice bucket bath from his players after winning their Class 4A state semifinal game over Anniston.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
JACKSONVILLE — Clint Smith has heard ‘’First time for …’’ a lot during this postseason and every time it’s made him smile.

Ron Wiggins moved closer to the Calhoun County single-season rushing record with 206 yards and four more touchdowns Friday. As of Monday morning, this photo on our Facebook page reached more than 31,000 people.

He had the broadest smile of all Friday after his Jacksonville football team earned a spot in the state title game for the first time in school history after beating Anniston 34-13 in front of more than 4,000 at Golden Eagle Stadium.
The Golden Eagles (12-2) will play UMS-Wright (13-0) for the Class 4A title Friday at 11 a.m. in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Bulldogs have a 32-game winning streak and have won the last two 4A state titles.
‘’I’m glad it’s now,’’ Smith said. ‘’I’m glad to be a part of it. We’ve got some great kids here, kids who have really put a lot (into it). The kids this year just bought in really since Week 5 or 6 after the Piedmont loss and became a close team.
‘’We’re playing for a state championship. Eight years ago when we got here people mentioning Jacksonville and state championship in the same season, it didn’t happen. I’m just proud of all the kids who have come through our program and built it to what it is today.’’
Ron Wiggins once again led the Golden Eagles’ offense. He rushed for 206 yards of 29 of Jacksonville’s 34 rushing attempts and scored four touchdowns, passing Alexandria’s Mac Campbell (2,596) on the Calhoun County single-season rushing list along the way.
The Bulldogs did a good job on Wiggins early. He did all the work leading up to Taj Morris’ 1-yard run to open the scoring and then broke out with a 58-yard run to answer Anniston’s first touchdown. 
Wiggins also scored on runs of 18, 11 and 21 yards and now has 2,656 yards for the season with the biggest game of his career to play. Alexandria’s Chris Evans holds the record, according to his Alabama high school football history bio, with 2,699 yards in 2005. Campbell is the highest-ranking Calhoun County player in the AHSAA single-season listing.
“When teams like Anniston key on me I know it’s going to be hard the first couple plays,” Wiggins said. “They’re pumped up, they’re coming out with energy, their adrenaline’s rushing. Our linemen are doing a heluva job, they’re going to open up some holes for me and I knew I was going to get one sooner or later.”
He ended up getting four. In four post-season games this year he has 953 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns.
“I think we contained him pretty good to give ourselves a chance,” Anniston coach Rico White said. “We didn’t execute offensively to help the defense out. That’s part of it.”
Anniston’s A.J. Brown rushed for 234 yards and scored both Bulldogs’ touchdowns. He was stopped short of the goal line on the last play of the first half that kept Jacksonville ahead 21-6 and, Smith said, ‘’really set the tone for the second half.’’ Even Wilson admitted it was “major.”
The play went up the middle and was stopped by Dreylan Fomby and Omaurion Pope, who used to play for the Bulldogs.
“It was a big play to keep the momentum in our favor,” Pope said. “We wanted to not give them momentum like we did last time because they almost came back and beat us, so we wanted to keep the momentum in our favor to be able to win the game.”
Linebacker Jackson Moses led the defense with 11 tackles, one for loss. He was still trying to wrap his arms around the fact he was going to be playing for a state championship in less than a week.
“It doesn’t seem real right now,” he said. “I’m so glad to be a part of it.”
Jacksonville is one of three Calhoun County teams that will playing for a state title, along with Piedmont (3A) and Oxford (6A). The county has produced more than one state champion only once – 1989, Anniston and Oxford.
‘’I’m glad one of them (three finalists) is us,’’ Smith said. “This is where you want to be and we’re just excited to be here.”

Jackson Moses (18) and the Jacksonville defense are all over an Anniston ballcarrier. The defense had two takeaways and a big goal-line stand. (Photo by Coley Birchfield)
Ann (13)Jax (34)

Jacksonville 34, Anniston 13
Anniston              0               6               7               0              –                13
Jacksonville         7              14            6               7               –                34
Scoring plays
J – Taj Morris 1 run (Mason Terrell kick), 7:52 1Q
A – A.J. Brown 19 run (run failed), 8:44 2Q
J – Ron Wiggins 58 run (Mason Terrell kick), 7:19 2Q
J – Ron Wiggins 18 run (Mason Terrell kick), 6:22 2Q
J – Ron Wiggins 11 run (kick failed), 6:35 3Q
A – A.J. Brown 38 run (Kevin Escareno kick), 4:37 3Q
J – Ron Wiggins 21 run (Mason Terrell kick), 3:25 4Q

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