“If we win, we’ll be third. If we win, and some other stuff happens, we could possibly still get second,” Cleburne County coach Michael Shortt said prior to Wednesday afternoon’s practice.
After starting Region 5 play 0-2, Lincoln has won four consecutive region tilts and is now 4-4 overall and 4-2 in the region
The Golden Bears feature small but speedy backs who run hard, particularly junior Jamario Howard.
“They run real hard and it’s not real complicated to run real hard when you’re running behind that transfer truck in front of you,”
Shortt said, referring to Lincoln’s sizeable offensive linemen.
On defense, Lincoln features a blend of size and speed around the box.
“You’ve got to be able to throw it some,” Shortt said of attacking Lincoln’s defense. “You’ve got to be able to throw it some because those guys are so good up front."
Playing shorthanded, Cleburne County gave Jacksonville all the Golden Eagles wanted in last Friday’s 14-7 loss in Heflin.
Cleburne County fell to 5-3 overall and 3-3 in Region 5 games. The Tigers’ defense limited Jacksonville’s high-scoring offense to just one touchdown. Jacksonville (6-2, 4-2), which had scored 20 points and 21 points in losses Munford and Lincoln and 40 or more points in each of its first five wins, got its first score by recovering a Cleburne County fumble.
“Defensively, we probably played one of our better games we’ve played all year against Jacksonville because they’re real explosive.
… We played real well. We tackled well,” Shortt said.
Late in the first quarter, Cleburne County drove 39 yards in four plays to score the game’s first points, overcoming penalty yards along the way. Trey Bolton had runs of 10 yards and seven yards before Brandon Horn scored on a 25-yard carry. Anderson Jacks kicked the extra point and the Tigers led 7-0.
The Tigers failed to score on three other red zone chances in the first half and that lack of success came back to haunt them. As the second quarter came to a close, Cleburne County forced Jacksonville to punt but the Tigers got the ball deep in Tiger territory. On the second play, Cleburne County fumbled and the Golden Eagles recovered for a touchdown.
“If we just get our red zone opportunities taken care of it could have possibly been 21-0 at the half,” Shortt said.
Instead, Cleburne County led just 7-6 when the bands played.
Jacksonville’s only scoring drive came at the start of the third quarter and ended when burly running back Dominique Thomas scored on a fourth-and-goal call from two yards out. Quarterback Jackson Bell then ran for the 2-point conversion.
The Tigers rushed for 193 yards and passed for 23 yards, garnering 11 first downs. Jacksonville netted 142 yards on the ground and 33 through the air. The Golden Eagles had nine first downs. Cleburne County turned the ball over twice and Jacksonville once.
“We had opportunities early. Most of our offense came in the first half,” Shortt said.
When the Tigers got inside the Jacksonville 10-yard line, the absence of linebacker-fullback Cole Corkren, injured in the Alexandria game, was particularly noticeable.
“We didn’t have that fullback game when we got down inside the 5 or 6-yard line. Corkren had scored seven or eight times this year when we got down there,” Shortt said.
Horn ran nine times for 86 yards. Bolton gained 80 yards on 23 carries. Christian Henson, moved from wide receiver to quarterback when Brady Padgett was injured in the Alexandria game, netted 27 yards on 10 carries.
Henson was 3-for-12 passing for 23 yards with one interception. Jeremiah Blake had one reception for 11 yards, Jeremiah McLeroy one for eight yards and Horn one for four yards.
Alex Sandmann led the Tigers in tackles with 14. McLeroy had seven tackles. Henson, Matthew Morrow, Geoffrey Teague, Griffin Turner and Isaiah Ware each recorded six tackles. Grant Corkren, Mario Smith and Drake Williamson had five tackles apiece.
Henson intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter. Following the pick, Cleburne County moved about 25 yards into Jacksonville territory before losing the ball on downs.