Championship slips through Raiders’ fingers
Despite being plagued by injuries, the Jefferson Davis Academy eight-man football team’s dream of winning its first title since 2010 shifted from a fleeting hope at the beginning of the game to a realistic possibility with seven minutes left in Saturday’s SCISA Finals.
Jefferson Davis Academy led the two-time defending champions of Andrew Jackson Academy 30-22 and appeared to be on the way to victory.
And just like that, the bottom fell out from beneath the Raiders.
Andrew Jackson Academy, which holds the state record for 36 straight wins, showed their resilience down the stretch.
The Confederates scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to escape with a 34-30 win at Calhoun Academy in St. Matthews.
The game-winning score was a 22-yard touchdown pass from Confederate quarterback Colyn Peek to Jon Shaffer. The score came moments after the Raiders fumbled the ball away while trying to run out the clock.
With the loss, JDA completes the season at 9-4 overall and 1-1 in the post season.
The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for JDA coach Michael Tindall and his team.
“This was a very tough loss. I really hurt for my players, especially the seniors. They’re a special group and they did so much to get our program back at the top,” Tindall said.
At the start of the game, the Raiders’ game plan was working with success.
Trent Jamison, who left the game with an injury, got the troops going with a 44-yard run. Donte Payne then completed the lengthy 10-play march with a one-yard dive. Jimmy Bozard ran for the two-point conversion.
After the Confederates scored a touchdown to narrow the lead to 8-6, the Raiders’ offense was back in business again thanks to a fumble recovery by Samuel Frederick.
It took the Raiders eight plays to convert the turnover into points. Bozard scored on a 10-yard run. Brant then added a two-point conversion run to extend the lead at 16-6 with 4:53 left in the first half.
The Raiders, however, were unable to take the momentum into halftime. The Confederates fired back before the end of the half with Ackerman scoring on a 45-yard run. The two-point conversion made the score 16-14 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Raiders’ offense picked up from where it left off. Three plays into the third quarter, Bozard ripped off a 45-yard run to the two yard-line. One play later, Brant scored. Brant then lobbed a pass to Bozard, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion.
In the fourth quarter with the team clinging to a 24-22 lead, the Raiders’ offense put together yet another impressive march. On third down and five, Brant rolled left and found Frederick along the sidelines for an 18-yard pick.
Moments later, the life seemed to be sucked out of the Raiders’ offense when leading rusher Bozard was carried off the field after suffering an apparent leg injury.
Chance Morris stepped up in the place of their top rusher.
On second down and five, Morris took the handoff from Wyatt and raced 20 yards untouched to the end zone.
The score gave the Raiders a 30-22 advantage with 7:18 left to play.
The Raiders stopped the Confederates on downs with 4:39 left to play and appeared poised to just run the clock out with the Confederates having just one timeout left.
The team, however, stumbled in its efforts. First, the Raiders ran out of bounds on a running play to stop the clock. Next, they were called for holding on a pass attempt that also stopped the clock and led to the team punting from deep in their end zone.
After receiving the punt at the Raiders’ 48 yard-line, the Confederates put together several huge plays to get to the end zone, no bigger than a 38-yard completion to their two yard-line.
A touchdown run by Ackerman followed two plays later to narrow the score to 30-28. The Raiders, however, quickly seized the momentum back when Ackerman was held off the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Raiders. The Raiders then attempted to run out the remaining 1:48.
Disaster, however, stuck on the second play when the team fumbled on a running play and the Confederates recovered.
“We thought his forward progress was stopped on the play. We argued the call but the officials said it was a fumble,” Tindall said.
Defensively, the Raiders played a superb game despite playing without key starters Dalton Beasley, Trent Jamison and Hunter Beach.
A unit paced by Carson Wiles, Tyler Renew, Donte Payne, Chance Morris and Samuel Frederick produced big stops throughout the game.
Early in the third quarter with the Raiders leading 24-14, the Confederates were on a march toward the Raiders’ goal line.
The Raiders defense, however, stiffened in a hurry. On a second down and three, Payne beat a blocker and tackled the ball carrier for a four-yard loss.
Two plays later on fourth and two, Wiles stuffed a runner in the hole for no gain which gave the Raiders the ball back on downs.
Midway in the fourth quarter with Raiders leading 30-22, the Confederates drove to their two yard-line.
The Raiders’ defense would turn them away without a score again. This time, Chance Morris came up with the biggest play on the series when he blitzed and tacked a runner for an eight-yard loss.
On fourth and goal, Frederick came up big in coverage as he batted the ball away from a receiver downfield to end the threat.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders defense was put to the test again.
After scoring a touchdown to narrow the lead at 30-28, the Confederates needed a two-point conversion to tie the game with just 1:59 left on the clock.
The Confederates went with their bread and butter play - a drive up the middle. The Raiders, however, were ready for the challenge. Wiles, Renew and Morris ganged-tackled Bailey Ackerman just short of the goal line.
“We’ve been playing great defense for the past month. I thought we did a better job of tackling them this time around,” Tindall said.
For the game, Bozard led the Raiders’ offense with 127 yards on 25 carries.
Defensively, Frederick registered nine tackles. Morris had eight tackles. Players with seven tackles included Wiles, Payne and Jeremy Davis.
“Tough way to end the season, but we have a good nucleus of players so we’ll be back next year,” Tindall said.