Gray – Sometimes, it’s about outplaying a team.
Other times, who survives mistakes better leaves happier.
Stockbridge followed up its errors a little better and held on for a 27-17 win Friday night over Jones County in a battle of Region 4-AAAAA unbeatens.
Third-ranked Stockbridge takes the region title, and fifth-ranked Jones County will try to seal at least one home playoff game. And both will spend the week sharpening up.
“We’re playing good teams,” Stockbridge head coach Kevin Whitley said, “They don’t need our help.”
Jones County head coach Justin Rogers felt the same way.
“You just can’t beat yourself,” he said. “We’re a good team. You just can’t beat yourself. Can’t do it.”
Rogers wasn’t necessarily surprised.
“They’ve been there more,” he said. “I think they handled the stage better.”
Jones County trailed 20-9 at halftime, and came up short on a fourth-and-1 on its second possession of the third quarter. The defense held, and the offense got the overflow home crowd back in the game a few moments later.
Drake Bolus blasted up the middle hardly touched for a 65-yard touchdown, and after a timeout to avoid the penalty on the conversion, Teldrick Ross passed to Jontavias Robertson for the two, and suddenly the Greyhounds were within 20-17 at the 5:38 mark of the third quarter.
Then Stockbridge’s flexbone option offense turned in a monster drive that covered 66 yards and took up 5:48, stretching into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers were deep when two penalties – an ineligible receiver downfield and false start – looked to sabotage the drive, but they were erased on a pass interference call in the end zone.
Yahsyn McKee went around the right side and leaped over the goal line for the 7-yard score. Rico Sanders’ kick gave the Tigers a 27-17 lead with 11:44 left in the game.
The Greyhounds chances all but died with the spot a half-yard short on a fourth-down try with 7:53 left, a spot that left Rogers hot at the time and still a little miffed afterward.
“We had two (fourth down) spots that neither went our way,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with the knee being down. It’s where the ball is at when the knee is down. That was the issue I didn’t agree with.
“They spotted it where his knee was down.”
The Tigers took over on their 36 and were able to run out the clock, aided by a roughing-the-kicker call with about three minutes left.
The Greyhounds got a pregame break. Stockbridge was without standout defensive lineman and Ohio State commitment Brenton Cox. Whitley said Cox got into an altercation at school early in the week and suspended him for the game.
“He had to sit,” Whitley said. “You don’t do the right thing, you can’t play. He’s a good kid, he made a bad decision. He’ll be back next week.”
But the Stockbridge defense hardly missed a beat, after surrendering a first-possession touchdown to Jones County, which went 80 yards in seven plays, Ross keeping for 38 yards and a score.
The Greyhounds missed the PAT, as did the Tigers, who answered quickly. Quarterback Gabe McKenzie got 41 on first down, and then he passed 28 yards to Brandon Lopes three plays later to tie it with 7:57 left in the first.
“You come down opening drive, put together a nice drive,” Rogers said. “And then the first damn play on defense, you can’t get lined up, you give up a 40-yard run because we ain’t lined up.
“We got nobody on the quarterback or the pitch, not even close. Now they’ve got the momentum back.”
Jones County lost a little field position after a flag on a punt, but it didn’t matter. McKee took a pitch around the right side for 57 yards on the first play, and Rico Sanders’ kick put the Tigers up 13-6 with 6:10 left in the first.
After a second straight three-and-out, the Tigers took advantage of a 25-yard punt, McKenzie passing to Marquez Ezzard – who had Ross all over him – for a 23-yard touchdown on the second quarter’s first play.
“The biggest thing is number 1,” Rogers said of Florida State-bound Ezzard, who had a few of highlight-reel catches, and had eight receptions for 84 yards. “I mean, it’s just like when Georgia Tech had Calvin Johnson.”
The Greyhounds cut into the 20-6 margin on their next drive, converting a third and short and fourth and short only to stall and settle for Josh Skinner’s 29-yard field goal at the 6:07 mark.
Jones County ended up with a few more first downs in the first half, but on the losing end, thanks to big plays. And it stayed that way.
“This was what playoff football’s all about,” said Whitley, whose team was without a starter on both sides of the ball in addition to Cox. “We kept fighting. Jones County’s a good team, (in) probably the (best) hostile environment we’ve played in all year. Unbelievable atmosphere, and I’m proud of our guys.”
Gray – Sometimes, it’s about outplaying a team.