Published 9:04 am Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tony Waits / The Prentiss Headlight - Tra Darren Cook makes a death-defying leap to secure the State Football Championship for the Bassfield Yellowjackets.

Tony Waits / The Prentiss Headlight – Tra Darren Cook makes a death-defying leap to secure the State Football Championship for the Bassfield Yellowjackets.


By Bobby L. Wilson / BHS sports

The Bassfield YellowJackets completed the mission of the 2013 football season in true Jackets style this past Friday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.

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Calhoun City came in with high hopes of being able to knock off the defending 2A champs, but those hopes were soon washed away by the cold rain that fell as the game went on.

What turned out weather-wise as a miserable afternoon, was made a lot easier by the commanding performance of the Jackets across the board.

Being led throughout the year by the Moore twins AJ and CJ, Curtis Mikell, Cameron Williams, Jimmie Funchess, Brandon Mancuso and a host of underclassmen, the mission set during spring training was as close to being perfect as a coaching staff could hope for.

With only a couple of games that were even a challenge for the Jackets, the other 14 were a walk in the park. Because of the success this team had week after week in the first half, the development of the underclassmen will prove to be just as valuable in the coming year as was the success of the year.

The championship game has a little of everything, and for the first time this year, the Jackets did not punt one time in this game.  “I’m glad I didn’t have to (punt), the ball did not move during warm ups – and with the cold air, it would not have been good to punt”, said Brandon Mancuso after the game.

After winning the coin toss conducted by the Mayor of Calhoun City, and Jimmy Kerley, town Alderman for Bassfield (filling in for Mayor Pat Courtney who was not able to attend), the Jackets as always, deferred to the second half and gave the offense of the Wildcats first touch of the ball.

The Wildcats started offensively with three straight runs, before going back to punt and fumbling the ball on the snap. The new balls used by Calhoun City turned out to not be a wise choice as was evidenced throughout the evening. A huge hit on the punter by Curtis Mikell, gave the ball to the Jackets on the Calhoun side of the 50.

Led by Rachaud Green, the Jackets moved the ball to the 28-yard line before a lapse in memory gave the ball back to the Wildcats. CJ threw a lateral pass to Jamal Peters who dropped the pass, but forgot that it was a live ball and just walked away from it, Calhoun City defense fell on it giving them the ball right back in good field position at the 41. An intercepted pass by Cornell Armstrong ended the Wildcats second drive.

Bassfield started at midfield – missed a golden opportunity as a 45-yard pass to a wide-open Cameron Williams, fell incomplete as it was just out of his reach. Maybe the sight of a wide-open receiver, or maybe just a wet ball – but the first opportunity was missed.

T-Rod Daniels took the ball to the end zone, from the 46-yard line, but was nullified as Racheem Boothe came up from behind, and had an illegal block in the back, putting the ball back to the 20-yard line.

Power runs, a facemask penalty by Calhoun City, and the Jackets had 1st and goal at the 6-yard line. The quarter ended as the defense of the Wildcats showed some power in the middle, and stuffed two consecutive runs, setting up 3rd and goal as the second quarter began.

For only the second time this season, the Jackets did not score in the first quarter. It only took nine seconds of the second quarter before T-Rod Daniels finished off the second possession of the afternoon. Mancuso’s kick was good and the Jackets led 7 – 0.

After going – 9 yards in the first quarter, the Wildcats lost five yards on the first play, then a lame duck pass, a 6-yard run and this time the Wildcats get off a good punt down to the Jackets 29.

The offense of the Jackets then got their game in gear again, playing keep away from the Wildcats as they went to the ground eating up yardage and time off the clock, keeping Calhoun on its heals all evening.

A perfect pass from CJ Moore this time was on target into the waiting hands of Curtis Mikell for a 38-yard touchdown pass completion. Calhoun City’s game plan was to make the Jackets pass more than they were accustomed. All year the Jackets have averaged less than five passes per game, but most of the time as was the case tonight, they made them count when they did. Mancuso’s PAT put the Jackets up 14 – 0!

A powerful hit by Racheem Boothe on Calhoun’s star quarterback, set up the next errant throw, as Cameron Williams stepped in front of a poorly-thrown ball again, getting his second I N T of the early evening returning the ball to the 17 yard line. A short field for the offense again.

Wasting no time, the Jackets high-powered offense went to work. An 8-yard run by T-Rod, then a perfect pass to Brandon Mancuso, catching his first touchdown of the year, gave the Jackets great momentum as the half was closing out. CJ had his choice of three wide-open receivers before hitting Mancuso in the back of the end zone. Mancuso had almost every PAT blocked this night, but the Jackets led 20 – 0.

A lackluster performance on the next drive by the Wildcats forced a turnover on downs as they started going to the air, but to no avail. A backward pass was not called in the drive, but not to be concerned, the Jackets defense made a fake punt look like sandlot football gone bad.

The Jackets took over on the plus 46. Jamal Peters took a reverse and was headed down the sidelines, but about ¼ inch of his shoe hit the sideline, and he was ruled out of bounds after an 8-yard gain. Slipping and almost falling to a knee, CJ Moore took a busted play and down the same Calhoun sideline he went carrying the football like a loaf of bread gaining 23 yards before stepping out of bounds at the 15-yard line.

A holding call on the Jackets, the third of the evening, put the ball back to the 20 after T-Rod had moved the ball to the 10. Again, Curtis Mikell was wide open going across the back of the end zone, as CJ Moore threw his 3rd touchdown of the 2nd quarter, and this one was becoming all too familiar to Jacket fans. Mancuso’s kick made it 27 – 0 with 13.7 seconds left in the half, and the ball was there’s to start the second half.

“(For) 24 minutes, you have done what you were supposed to, the problem is you got 24 more.  Do not give them any opportunity,” Mancuso told the team at the half.

Both teams hit the field in the opening of the second half with everyone knowing that an onside kick was coming up. Calhoun City did not disappoint, with a short kick to the 42-yard line.

With the icy cold rain pouring down as the third quarter started, the Jackets started the power running they are known for and drove the ball down the throats of its 14th hapless opponent this year. After another power run by CJ Moore, he then went to the air to Tra Darren Cook. After an illegal shift by the Jackets, CJ went back to Cook for 16 yards, then a 2-yard pass to Cook, a -4 yard run by Cook, then finally from five yards out, Tra Darren put the ball into the end zone, and this game was in the books early third quarter.  Mancuso kick made it 34 – 0.

The biggest hit of the night came on the next kickoff as Calhoun City tried to field the kickoff at the 30 and paid the price. Two Jacket speedsters nailed both the receiver and blocker, and then Rachaud Green recovered the fumble at the Wildcats 27.

Five straight power runs, two by CJ Moore and the other three by Dan Tario Magee as he finished the dominance of the Jackets scoring from six yards out. Mancuso’s kick was good, Jackets up 41 – 0!!!

Four runs and the Wildcats were off the field, as a tackle by Jamal Peters appeared to have knocked the runner over the first down line, but by less than half the length of the football, Bassfield took over on downs at the 45-yard line.

Two plays and the Jackets gave the ball back to Calhoun City. The heavy rain, the freezing hands, and the ball became like glass, most players tried to use hand warmers, but the hands were freezing. Calhoun City played in the same elements and again for the fourth time turned the ball over to the Jackets on a turnover.

For the third time, the Jackets scored off a turnover as Jamal Peters picked the quarterback’s fumble off the ground at the 44-yard line and raced untouched to the end zone for an exclamation point on a game that was never in doubt. Mancuso kick was good and the Jackets were leading 48 – 0 in 3rd quarter.

There were 27 points in the 2nd quarter, 21 points in the 3rd quarter, and only 52 yards offense in three quarters of play for Calhoun City. There were only seven offensive plays in the 3rd quarter.

The fourth quarter was a run out the clock and go home with another State Title. Calhoun City finally got a couple of drives. The first drive of the 4th quarter sent Calhoun City all the way to the Jackets 14-yard line before Racheem Boothe picked up the Wildcats fumble ending the only chance they had to score all night.

A 54-yard run by T-Rod Daniels to start the next Jackets drive showed that this team and Calhoun were ready to call it a night. With an opportunity to score, T-Rod ran out of bounds instead of trying to score, and then the JV took over to finish out the night. Finally turning the ball over on a miss handoff, Calhoun City had one more opportunity to score before the night ended.

Calhoun City started at the 29 and ran and ran and ran, finally to pay dirt, but not without outstanding play by the JV defense. A misdirection run of 32 yards with 15.8 seconds in the game and Calhoun City prevented a shutout. The PAT was good and finally – finally, this cold miserable wonderful Championship evening and the 2013 season had come to an end.

It would take a book to list all the accomplishments this team has for this football season. But, the most important accomplishment is, was and will always be is STATE CHAMPIONS for 2013.

By the numbers:

CJ Moore – 85 yards rushing, 87 yards passing, 3 passing touchdowns, going 4 for 6, 4 solo tackles.

T-Rod Daniels 122 yards rushing, 1 touchdown

Curtis Mikell 58 yards receiving on 2 catches and 2 touchdowns

Jackets offense – 300 yards rushing, 87 yards passing

Wildcats offense – 100 yards rushing (71 on last drive) and 14 yards passing

One of the unsung heroes of this game and throughout the season was Jimmie Funchess, tight end (#8). The Jackets do not utilize the tight end much on offense in the limited passing game, but Jimmie played his game as a blocking tight end as good as any could have.  At 6’4” and about 230, Jimmie has the opportunity to play for a few more years with the right college choice.

Thanks to the handful of readers who continually encourage me to keep writing. See ya on the field next year to start the road to Jackson once again.