Little Rock Christian had more yards, twice as many plays and had the ball twice as long. Jacksonville though, had twice the touchdowns in a 13-7 win for the Red Devils over the Warriors.
Jacksonville scored early when Lamont Gauss scored on a 63-yard swing pass from Aaron Smith on the third play of the game. Their next score didn’t come until Kevin Williams raced through the middle of the defense for a 38-yard touchdown run with 1:34 remaining in the game.
Inbetween those two scores, the offense may not have done very much, but the defense stayed very busy.
The Warriors ran 79 plays to the Red Devils’ 35, and had the ball for roughly twice as long as Jacksonville. Total yardage was close however, with Little Rock Christian at 259 and Jacksonville with 242.
“As a defense, you want to stop the other team, but if you don’t do that, at least don’t give up the big play,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “If you make them keep driving, you give yourself a chance for something good to happen.”
The Warriors had three possessions of at least 11 plays and another three of at least seven plays. Their one three and out came after starting tailback Jay Hedges was hurt in the second half.
Jacksonville’s defense came up with big plays at big times, with Kevin Richardson grabbing an interception at the goal line, while Nykel Worthan picked off a pass on the Red Devil 13-yard-line a minute before halftime.
The Warriors finally broke through and avoided a shutout with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Quarterback Houston Angel, who shouldered the rushing duties in the second half, was able to just reach over the pile on fourth-and-goal from the one to tie the score 7-7.
Jacksonville’s offense suddenly became explosive again with Richardson rushing for 16 yards, then two plays later taking an inside handoff the distance for a 38-yard touchdown run.
“Little Rock Christian is such a well coached, disciplined team,” Russell said. “Kevin’s run, they didn’t really do anything differently from what they had done, that was Kevin Richardson finding an extra gear and not being denied. We have to find a way to get the ball to him more often.”
Richardson led Jacksonville with 64 yards on three carries. Smith rushed 15 times for 54 yards. Hedges led the Warriors with 85 yards on 22 carries. Angel finished with 21 carries for 45 yards, although he lost 34 yards in sacks by the Jacksonville defense. Angel was held to 11 of 32 passing for 121 yards.
“Some nights the offense is going to be the star. We needed 57 points to beat McClellan,” Russell said. “Tonight, it was the defense. That’s why this is such a team game and such a team win.”
The effort was the ultimate example of a bend but don’t break defense. The Warriors picked up at least one first down on every drive but one. Jacksonville forced them to turn the ball over on downs multiple times inside the Jacksonville 35-yard-line and continually stonewalled Little Rock Christian drives that began on the Warrior 40-yard-line or closer to Jacksonville territory.
That defense will need to continue to be a stalwart with a road trip to Mills this week and then a showdown with Pulaski Academy in the regular season finale.