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Jaguars drop heartbreaker in season opener
By Paul Keane
Coaches and players alike typically despise moral victories. But after Friday night's effort against Newton County Academy, all the fans of Wayne Academy could have asked for was a win on the scoreboard.
The Jaguars had their chances and rallied twice but saw a fourth-down pass inside the 5-yard line fall to the ground, allowing the Generals to come away with a 28-22 victory in the season opener for both teams.
W.A. Head Coach Sean Harrison said he was extremely proud of his team even with the loss.
"The effort these guys gave tonight was tremendous," he said. "They left their guts out on this field tonight.
"We were a little sloppy at times with our execution, and we left some points out here on the field. But I can't find any fault with the effort of my guys and the way they played tonight."
Season-opening jitters played a role in the early going Friday night, as both teams saw drives end with fumbles on their opening possessions. The Jaguars then fumbled on their second possession, allowing the Generals to set up shop at the W.A. 41-yard line. It took only eight plays before Ethan Parker scored on a 20-yard run, and the Dustin Alsup kick made it 7-0 with 3:55 left in the opening quarter of play.
On the ensuing possession, the Jaguars drove down to the NCA 17-yard line before falling a yard shy on a fourth-and-3 play. The defense held the Generals to three and out, and the offense got on track on its next series.
Starting at their own 46-yard line, the Jags drove downfield methodically, mixing the run and pass effectively in a 13-play drive that was capped off when Zack Hutchison ran it in from a yard out. The two-point conversion pass missed its mark and the Jaguars trailed by a 7-6 margin with 6:34 left in the first half.
The defense held again, this time making a tackle on a fake punt attempt, and the offense needed only six plays before Hutchison hit Braden Doss with a 21-yard scoring pass. Hutchison then called his own number on the conversion, making it 14-7 with 2:56 left before the intermission.
The Generals put together a swift drive that consumed 2:37 off the clock and took only 11 plays before Hunter Terrell hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Braden Smith on a fourth-and-9 play to trim the deficit down to 14-13 with 12 seconds left.
The Jaguars took that slim lead into the halftime locker room.
NCA took the second half kickoff and methodically churned up yardage on the ground, using 11 straight running plays to drive 65 yards, capping things off with a 1-yard run from Alsup. The Smith pass to Terrell opened up a 21-14 lead for the visiting team with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
The Generals then used a little trickery, hitting an onside kick that appeared to be recovered by the Jaguars. Instead, the officials allowed Newton to re-kick the ball, and the Generals again hit an onside kick that was recovered by the visiting team, allowing Newton to set up shop at its own 48-yard line.
Four plays later, Smith hit Jordan Jones on a 14-yard scoring pass, and the Alsup kick made it 28-14 with 4:34 left in the stanza.
The Jaguars were far from dead, though, taking the ensuing kickoff and driving 65 yards of their own in seven plays before Hutchison hit Gunner West with a 34-yard touchdown pass. Hutchison then ran in the two-point conversion to trim the lead down to 28-22 with 1:55 left in the third.
Desperately needing a defensive stop in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars answered when Garret Dixon tackled Ty Alderman 6 yards short of a first down on a fourth-and-7 play. The gave W.A. possession at its own 6-yard line with 8:47 left in the quarter.
The Jags could not capitalize on the defensive stop, though, as the drive stalled near midfield. The defense held again, though, forcing a punt that pinned Wayne at its own 19-yard line with 2:02 remaining in the contest.
The Jaguars calmly drove downfield, reaching the Newton 14-yard line with under a minute to play. Facing fourth-and-5 from the 9-yard line, though, a pass fell incomplete, preserving the slim win for the Generals.
For the night, the Jaguars rushed for 169 yards and passed for another 189, making it one of the best performances in more than a year offensively for the team. Defensively, W.A. held Newton's vaunted rushing attack to 202 yards on 43 carries while also allowing only 118 yards.
NEWTON COUNTY ACADEMY 28, WAYNE ACADEMY 22
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCA 7 6 15 0 — 28
WA 0 14 8 0 — 22
NCA — 3:55, Ethan Parker 20-yard run. Dustin Alsup kick.
WA — 6:34, Zach Hutchison 1-yard run. Pass failed.
WA — 2:56, Braden Doss 21-yard pass from Hutchison. Hutchison run.
NCA — 0:12, Hunter Terrell 18-yard pass from Braden Smith. Run failed.
NCA — 6:27, Alsup 1-yard run. Smith pass to Terrell.
NCA — 4:34, Jordan Jones 14-yard pass from Smith. Alsup kick.
WA — 8:55, Gunner West 34-yard pass from Hutchison. Hutchison run.
FIRST DOWNS: WA 22, NCA 21
RUSHES-YARDS: WA 35-169, NCA 43-202
PASSES: WA 13-26-0, NCA 10-14-0
PASSING YARDS: WA 189, NCA 118
FUMBLES-LOST: WA 3-2, NCA 1-1
PENALTIES-YARDS: WA 2-15, NCA 8-60
PUNTS-AVERAGE: WA 0-0, NCA 2-28.5
RETURN YARDS: WA 17, NCA 35
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: WA 9-of-12, NCA 7-of-14
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS: WA 1-of-3, NCA 1-of-3
TIME OF POSSESSION: WA 18:53, NCA 29:07
Bubba Lewis 22-108, Zack Hutchison 9-43, Garret Dixon 3-11, Matt Landrum 1-7.
Zack Hutchison 13-26-0 189 yards.
Gunner West 6-112, Braden Doss 5-37, Codie Brewer 2-40.
Kyle Sanderson 17, Dakota Crager 15, Garret Dixon 12, Steven Keane 10, Codie Brewer 8, Quasi Myers 7, Braden Doss 5, Cole Hutto 5, T.J. Russ 5, Gunner West 3, Bubba Lewis 3, Braxton Philyaw 3, Gavin Chapman 3, Luke Mills 1, Cameron Brewer 1, J.J. Cochran 1, Matt Landrum 1.
Steven Keane 1.
Codie Brewer 1.
Zack Hutchison 2, Gunner West 1.