After hitting the snooze button multiple times and posting a goose egg in the first half, Stephenson woke up following the intermission with a burst of energy and a scoring jamboree.
A 14-point third quarter proved to the Jaguars’ springboard to success, leading to a 31-18 victory against neighboring Southwest DeKalb at Hallford Stadium.
Senior Ira Henderson quickly erased his team’s 6-0 deficit when he took the second-half kickoff, dashed to midfield near the opposing sideline and then reversed his tracks en route to an 83-yard touchdown.
“My boys gave me some good blocks, I found a lane and I took it to the house,” said Henderson. “We had a big talk at halftime. We said if we’re going to win, we have to do it now and we did.”
The Jags were the recipients of another big scoring play on their next possession. Quarterback Ga’Von Wray threw a sharp pass to Deshon Stoudemire and the receiver exploited the defense for a 56-yard touchdown. Stoudemire’s quick first step beat the cornerback for a secure reception. Adding to the breakdown in coverage, Southwest DeKalb’s safety took a bad angle on the tackle which led to an open lane for the long-distance score.
Southwest DeKalb regained its composure from those two hefty blows. Justin Tomlin hurled a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Alexander, narrowing the score to 14-12. The two-point advantage would hold to close out the third quarter.
The final stanza began with Wray and Stoudemire reuniting in the end zone on a 16-yard pass, stretching Stephenson’s lead to 21-12. Later in the quarter, Deondre Jackson called checkmate with a touchdown 21-yard run up the middle. Both schools added to the total for the eventual 31-18 final.
“Our kids woke up and the coaching staff did a great job of making adjustments. All it takes is one or two big plays and you can score a lot of points. The third quarter was huge for us,” said Stephenson head coach Ron Gartrell.
The team’s head man watched the game from the corner of the end zone as he recovers from an injured leg. Assistant head coach Donald Sellers oversees the unit devised a solid second-half strategy.
“We got some good guys on our staff. Coach Sellers has been with me since we opened the school. He’s done such a tremendous job. We are teaching our coaches and players to be their best. The scoreboard will take care of itself,” said Gartrell.
Stephenson earned its first win of the season. The victory also marked the schools seventh in a row over Southwest DeKalb. Over this stretch, the Jags have outscored the Panthers, 205-32. The series was interrupted from 2006-11.
With the loss, Southwest DeKalb now stands at 2-2.
“In the second half, we didn’t match their intensity. No excuses. We made some mistakes we couldn’t recover from and we had mental lapses. You can’t give up big plays when you’re going up against a team like Stephenson,” said Southwest DeKalb head coach Michael Tanks.