“All week in practice, we have been more aggressive and we wanted to come out tonight and bring that same aggression into this game,” JFK head coach Sheldon Hodge said. “We gave up some big plays, but I'm proud of the overall effort. The defense came out and pitched a shutout. The only points they got came from our offense.”
With the win the Hornets improved to 5-3 overall with a 2-0 mark in Region 3-2A. The Mustangs fell to 6-2 overall with a 1-1 mark in the region.
The Hornets’ offense came out pounding the ball down Strayhorn's throat, but a fumble from JFK's Eugene Pruitt stopped the drive. The Hornets’ defense had the offense's back as they recovered a bad hand off by Strayhorn on the Mustangs 33-yard line.
Back in business, the Hornets went back to the ground game, but a false start penalty put the Hornets behind in the down and distance. What would have been a great completion form Ladaris Johnson to Carnez Gant proved null-and-void as Gant caught the ball out of bounds to bring up a third-and-15.
On the next play, Johnson scrambled for five yards and set up fourth down-and-10. Hodge called timeout to set up the next play with 8:28 on the clock. The timeout was beneficial because out of the timeout Johnson found Gant for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 8:20 left in the first quarter. The two-point conversion failed, but JFK led 6-0.
The Hornets’ defense came out on Staryhorn's next possession fired up, but a questionable horse collar call on the Hornets where the defender clearly was pulling the offensive player down by his sleeve put the Mustangs in Hornet territory. The Mustangs could not take advantage of the call because the Hornets' defense stood up. After the Mustangs were called for a block in the back penalty, they had to punt.
Following the punt, the Hornets went on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in Johnson scoring on fourth-and-10 from 27-yards out with 8:59 left in the second quarter. The two-point conversion was scored by Pruitt for a 14-0 JFK lead
Strayhorn was forced to punt on its next possession, but a great punt put the Hornets at their five-yard line to start the drive. The field position helped Strayhorn's cause as they caught Johnson in the end zone and forced him to throw the ball away. Johnson was called for intentional grounding and since he was in the grasp of a Mustang defender and penalized it was an automatic safety to put Strayhorn on the board 14-2.
The Hornets had to kick the ball off to Strayhorn after the safety, but the defense forced the Mustangs into another punt situation. This time, the Mustangs faked the punt, but the play was snuffed out by the Hornets as the pass attempt was incomplete. JFK's celebration was short lived as the Hornets were called for hitting the long snapper, who was blocking for the fake punt attempt. The call gave the Mustangs new life with a first down.
On the next play, a pass from Strayhorn's Greg Caston deflected off his intended receiver’s shoulder pads and fell in the arms of JFK's Garriet Wilson who broke free for what seemed to be a touchdown, but the interception was called back for an inadvertent whistle. The Hornets didn't get down because on the next play Ricky Flemming did intercept the pass and allowed the Hornets to go into the locker room leading 14-2.
The Hornets’ defense started the third quarter in great form forcing Strayhorn to punt on its opening possession of the half. The offense was also clicking, but on third-and-long Johnson connected with Gant for a long catch and run that was called back for a block in the back. On the next play, Johnson was sacked and the Hornets had to punt.
The game continued with both teams exchanging punts, but in the fourth quarter the Hornets added another score as Johnson connected with Gant again for a 43 yard reception down to the two-yard line. On the next play, Pruitt plunged in with 3:45 left in the game. Johnson added the two point conversion for a 22-2 lead which was the eventual final as the Mustangs could not muster any offense all night.
"I think our guys showed a lot of maturity tonight fighting through a lot of adversity,” Hodge said. “In life and in this game, you are going to go through some adversity and you have to learn how to fight through it and I think we did that tonight.”
Pruitt led the JFK offense with 99 rushing yards on 19 carries. Johnson completed 5-of-8 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 39 yards on nine carries with a touchdown to aid the Hornets, followed by Gant with two receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown and Eugene Gant with two catches for eight yards.
JFK’s defense was led by Flemming, Wilson, Demorris Bedford and Timothy Richmond.
The Hornets will be back in action on Friday when they travel to Clarksdale to play Coahoma County in another region game at 7 p.m.