Jackets advance to playoffs

Published 2:55 pm Friday, November 7, 2014

For the first time in seven years, the Bassfield Yellowjackets are not the division champions.
Despite the loss to East Marion this past Friday night, the Jackets begin the second season of high school football with a first round playoff game at home.
Totally confused by who the Jackets should play, based on 5-2A having a three way tie for first, the Jackets play at home, no matter which of the teams show up.
In 5-2A, Enterprise defeated Union, Union defeated Lake and Lake defeated Enterprise, giving each a 4-1 division record. My guess is a draw from the hat or some strange format as that decided 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seed. The Jackets play the 3 seed of 5-2A, which according to MSHAA, that is Enterprise.
The Jackets are in the bottom bracket with the likes of Taylorsville, Pisgah, Richton, St. Joseph, Union and Amite County. If things play out as the favorites win, then the Jackets will play Pisgah next at home (Pisgah is a 1 seed, but will have played 7 home games-the Jackets 6), then Taylorsville (will play Union at home also due to 6 home games for Taylorsville and 7 for Union) on the road (both Bassfield and Taylorsville will each then have equal number of home games and Taylorsville will have double tie breaker advantage-1 seed and even numbered division).
Taylorsville will play three games in a row at home. If the Jackets win all three, the South State is too wide open at this time to project who would be home. The top bracket is wide open. My prediction is that winner of Lake vs Mize will play either Taylorsville or Bassfield for South State.
The Jackets cannot look past Enterprise, this is by far the toughest possible opponent for the Jackets of all round one games. Taylorsville, Pisgah and Union should have no problem in round one.
Enterprise comes to Bassfield with an 8-3 record, with 3-2 at home and 5-1 road record. The Bulldogs average 339 yards rushing per game and only 45 yards passing per game. They average 35 points per game while giving up 21 points per game. The most impressive stat is two players with over 1000 yards rushing.
The Jackets are 9-2 overall, 4-1 home and 5-1 on the road. The Jackets average 311 yards per game and 67 passing. They average scoring 43 points per game and give up 15 per game. The Jackets have no 1000 yard rushers, but 3 over 600 yards, mainly because the Jackets first team have played only one complete game in the last six played.
In the game against the biggest rival that Bassfield has, East Marion simply came to win, not just play.
The key factor was that East Marion were in better condition for this game than the Jackets. Each played the same teams the last 4 weeks, the difference Bassfield starters played about 8 full quarters in those games while East Marion starters played nearly all 16 quarters. It showed quickly as the cramps hit early and often.
This time of the year you should be four quarters ready, the Jackets were not.
East Marion lists forty players on the roster, but there were less than twenty on the field at game time.
There was good play, ugly play, and at times an old fashion football brawl. The penalties were costly, the clock was a disaster as the clock operator, according to the side judge was a borrowed basketball clock operator, whom the officials admitted appeared to be more interested in the game than running the clock.
What looked to be helping the Jackets by allowing the clock to start on every penalty (there were a lot) on the Jackets last drive, turned out to be harmful because it left no time on the clock for a final drive after East Marion scored with 6.5 seconds on the clock.
The Jackets did not lose because of this, they lost because Jonathan Abram, quarterback, almost single handed, beat the Jackets.
The opening drive ended perfect for the Jackets as East Marion put the ball on the ground giving the Jackets good field position at the 46-yard line.
East Marion’s defense showed that they had come to play, stopping the Jackets cold forcing a fourth and 5 at their 49. Everyone knew that the kick was not going to be a kick, what they didn’t know was that Josh Applewhite would take the snap and get the first down and on to the end zone. Forty-nine yards and the Jackets special teams gave the Jackets the lead with McNair’s PAT good. 7-0 Jackets.
Two punts each by both teams and East Marion put together its’ first offensive drive of the evening thanks to a 75 yard run that should have been stopped after a 20 yard gain. A chop block on the previous play had set the Eagle’s back to the 15-yard line with a 2nd and 25.
This would be the story of the night for the Jackets defense. Pin the Eagle’s on their heels, then allow a big play. East Marion finished this drive with a 6 yard run, two point conversion no good-Jackets still lead 7-6.
The offense of the Jackets answered right back driving the ball all the way to the East Marion 5-yard line. A horse collar penalty and a face mask penalty against East Marion helped the drive, but two crucial holding calls against the Jackets killed the drive, and the Jackets could not capitalize turning the ball over on downs at the 15 yard line. Huge turn in the ball game, truly the difference in the game.
Three more punts, no first downs by either team, one incomplete pass way out of bounds, and the half came to an end. The Jackets had tried to call time out with 1:12 on the clock on East Marion’s last drive, but the clock did not stop till it hit 53 seconds. East Marion was penalized, but the clock did not stop on the penalty, giving the Jackets only 5.9 seconds to finish the half. The Jackets did not get a first down on 3 drives in the first half.
Needing to make a statement, the Jackets came out once again to start the second half and straight down the field on only 2 plays as Ron Thompson carried two times, the last for 59 yards, McNair PAT good, Jackets up 14-6.
The defense of the Jackets killed East Marion’s answer with an interception at the one-yard line by Timothy Arnold.
The Jackets could not move the ball as East Marion’s defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. A poor punt with the wind (about 25 mph) to his back, managed only a 19-yard punt.
It took East Marion only 4 plays to complete what they had started last series. Two-point conversion again no good, Jackets still lead 14-12.
The Jackets offense answered right back going 63 yards on 5 plays plus a holding call and an unsportsmanlike conduct call against the Jackets. This one finished off on what I called a revenge run by Jamal Peters. He had been flagged for throwing the ball down, which in most cases is a delay of game, but not to be a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call.
Jamal took the snap from center in the wildcat formation and went left, stiff arming one would be tackler from East Marion going 39 yards for the easy touchdown. PAT by McNair this time was no good, Jackets still lead 20-12.
After three kicks, East Marion takes over at the 23-yard line with 1:10 left in the third quarter. East Marion went to a spread offense, using the run pass option by the quarterback, who executed perfectly down the field. The Jackets had a possible game saving stop with East Marion at 4th and 8 at the 35-yard line. A 10-yard run gave the Eagles the first down they needed, resulting in the second fourth down play that ended up giving the Eagles a touchdown. Twenty-five yards on the next run, and East Marion was back on the board, again the two point conversion no good-Jackets still lead 20-18.
Needing a much desired time consuming scoring drive, the Jackets took over at the 40-yard line with 8:08 on the clock. To the ground game the Jackets went, moving the ball down field. A break on a 4th and 1 as East Marion jumped off sides giving the Jackets life with a first down. Then a false start by the Jackets, and it was back to 1st and 15 at midfield.
Neither penalty stopped the clock, giving the Jackets what they thought was a blessing at the time as the clock was running out. The third penalty in a row, holding Jackets, now 1st and 25 as the Jackets are going backwards, but the clock never stopped on the penalty. Three more plays and the Jackets drive ended as they could not get another first down.
As fate would have it, the ball sailed over the punters head. At this point the kicker has three options, pick it up kick it and hope that it gets past the line of scrimmage or even better hit an unsuspecting defender, Jackets recover, or throw it, incomplete pass and the ball goes back to the line of scrimmage – the 49 yard line, or third option-run, which he did losing 17 yards on the play, giving East Marion gold at the Jackets 32 yard line.
With 2:22 to work with, East Marion went to work. Two-yard run, a stuff and no yards, now 3rd and 8 at the 30. A sweep by Eagle’s quarterback, stopped on a dime and delivered a perfect pass 25 yards down field, as the corners bit, and went after the run, leaving the receiver all alone.
First and goal at the 5-yard line, less than 35 seconds to play. A two-yard run, and loss of two yard run, an incomplete pass and it is 4th and goal at the 5-yard line with 18.6 seconds to play.
No 25-second clock running, the clock operator clearly not paying attention, but East Marion was finally called for a false start. 14.5 seconds to play, why did the clock run, nobody knows. Time out Jackets, the final play, someone is about to win this game. Everyone in the stadium knew that Abram was going to run this ball, Jackets played normal defense.
Jerome Johnson out ran the tackle, chasing Abram, missing him at the 15 by an inch, turning toward the Jackets side line with three would be tacklers in front of him, Abram goes air born at the 5 yard line – touchdown Eagles as the ball crosses the goal line by about a foot. Two-point conversion no good, and for the first time the Jackets now trailed 24-20.
With the clock its enemy, the Jackets had one play after the kickoff. Jamal Peters in shotgun in the wildcat position, takes the ball runs left, heads downfield, but eleven yards down, three Eagles tackle Jamal-game over, Eagles acted like they had just won the state championship.
A clearly distressed and clearly ill (health wise) Coach Mancuso told the team, “You fought hard, toe to toe, came up short, that’s life. How you handle it from here is in your hands. Ultimate goal is unchanged – to get to Starkville in December. We will see what kind of character you have; it’s easy being on top; handling adversity is tough – (but) I believe in you, who you are, you wear that jersey with pride!”
Player of the game this week goes to Ron Thompson-12 carries 117 yards and 1 TD.
Game time 7:00 p.m. at Willoughby Field in Bassfield- It is win or go home.

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