NE Jones wide receiver Will Morgan is taken down by South’s Ryne Sasser and Jason Jarrell in the Braves’ 13-9 win over the Tigers on Sept. 9, 2016 on The Reservation. (File photo)

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF 2017

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Game No. 9: NE Jones at South Jones

(Editor’s note: This is the second of a 10-part series featuring the Top 10 area high school football games from the 2016 season. The countdown will continue in each edition of the Leader-Call up to the No. 1 game, which will be revealed on Aug. 17, the start of the 2017 season.)

This annual Leader-Call “Battle for the Belt” game did not feature a lot of offense. NE Jones and South Jones combined for five turnovers, 21 penalties and just over 400 yards of offense in their tussle on The Reservation.

After taking a 13-9 lead on an Xavier Roberts 7-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter, it was the Braves’ defense that made the play of the game to seal the win when defensive back Steven Sasser intercepted NE Jones quarterback Tyler Landrum on the game’s final play to preserve the four-point win.

“Once again, the defense stepped up and really bailed us out,” said South Jones head coach Cory Reynolds. “Our offense is still plugging along and playing on the defense’s potential. Our special teams were big for us and got us a touchdown early, too.”

After a 23-yard Malachi Harrison field goal put the Tigers up 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Braves took their first lead of the night when Vekelion Campbell found his way into the end zone on a fake field goal. The PAT was good and the Braves led 7-3 at intermission.

Harrison knocked home another field goal, from 30 yards out, to pull the Tigers within 7-6 entering the game’s final 12 minutes.

Again, it was the right leg of Harrison that got the Tigers on the board when he booted his third field goal of the night (from 37 yards out) to give the Tigers a 9-7 lead with under 11 minutes to go in the game.

But Roberts put the Braves back in front for good with his TD run at the 8:13 mark.

After trading punts, the Tigers had one last chance to mount a comeback. But, after getting inside the Braves’ 40-yard line, Sasser picked off Landrum (his third interception thrown in the game) to seal the victory.

“A couple of turnovers killed us,” said NE Jones head coach Keith Braddock. “It’s our fault we gave them the dang ball at the 20-yard line. You can’t do that.”

With the win, the Braves moved to 4-0 for the first time since 2008.

The following week, South shut out West Harrison 31-0 for its first 5-0 start since winning its first eight games of the season in 1997.

The fast start eventually cooled off once the Braves got into Region 3-5A play. The Braves lost to Ole Brook before beating West Jones and Natchez. However, South lost the next three in a row before winning the season finale against Provine. Despite the 8-4 season, South missed out on the playoffs on a tiebreaker with Wingfield.

The loss to the Braves dropped the Tigers to 1-2 on the season, but Northeast fought its way back and won its next three games and five of its final seven overall. The Tigers finished 6-4 overall and 3-2 in Region 5-4A to qualify for the playoffs for the seventh straight season under Braddock.

But, for the second straight season, the Tigers lost in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs, 57-29, at Florence. The Eagles went on to play for the South State title.