MILLEN – The Jenkins County Eagles entered Friday night more than prepared for the visiting Wildcats from Schley County. However, the Eagles turned out to be their own worst enemy, as constant penalties and a very costly turnover lead to a 14-7 defeat at the hands of the Wildcats.
After the game, Jenkins County head coach Chuck Conley gave his team a lot of credit, while criticizing his own coaching efforts in the loss.
“I couldn’t ask for a better effort. The kids played very hard tonight. I’ll take the credit for this [loss]. We put ourselves in harm’s way, but we’re going to grow from that.”
The majority of Friday’s matchup was spent in a defensive stalemate, with each team punting on their first two drives of the night. Shley County broke through first when, as the first quarter wound down, a 27 yard scramble by quarterback Deondrick Pina was immediately followed by a touchdown romp by Joatu Solomon. The fullback took a draw and raced 11 yards, plowing through a defender at the goal line to make the score 6-0 in favor of the Wildcats.
When the ensuing Jenkins County drive could not convert a fourth down in Wildcat territory, Schley County looked to widen its lead. The Eagles quickly turned the tables though, forcing a fumble and quickly capitalizing.
Quarterback Houston Bowers wove through the defense for 24 yards down to the Schley County one yard line. Another quarterback sneak by Bowers, followed by a successful PAT, gave Jenkins County a 7-6 lead that it would hold for much of the game.
In the second half, both defenses locked down and the game became a battle for field position. This was where the penalties started to take their toll however. While Jenkins County outplayed the Wildcats throughout much of the game, 15 penalties totaling 95 yards consistently gave ground to Schley County. Three different times, a third down penalty gave a struggling Wildcat offense a free first down.
“It’s obvious that [the penalties] hurt,” remarked Conley. “Those little things can kill you, but a lot of that falls on me.”
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Jenkins County penetrated inside the Wildcat 15 yard line. It looked as though the Eagles would finally break through, but a sack and a couple of illegal procedure penalties pushed Jenkins County in the wrong direction. A 37 yard field goal by Caleb Chance went begging to the right, and the Eagles finished the drive empty handed.
Through all of this, the Eagles were able to maintain their lead late into the fourth quarter. Finding itself in Wildcat territory once again, Bowers looked to his left and fired a pass out into the flat. The ball glanced off the intended receiver and right into the arms of Schley County’s Carvis Mann. The corner back was already in full stride towards the Eagle end zone, and no one had a chance of catching him as he raced 67 yards for the score. A two point conversion stretched the Wildcat lead to 14-7 with 5:00 to play. The Eagles were able to cross midfield, but would never threaten to score, as the drive fizzled with four straight incompletions and the Wildcats were able to run out the clock.
With the loss, the Eagles drop to 2-2 on the season. They will look to rebound next week as they travel to Emanuel County for a Region 3A showdown.