Game No. 6: South Jones at West Jones
(Editor’s note: This is the fifth 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.)
The ’Shoe at West Jones High was rocking like it hadn’t been in quite some time when the South Jones Braves traveled off The Reservation to battle their cross-county rivals.
It wasn’t the cleanest game that either team played all year, but the back-and-forth affair would come down to one play. South Jones senior kicker Ryne Sasser booted the game-winning field goal on the game’s final play to lift the Braves to a 17-14 win. As the ball crossed between the uprights, the folks in red and blue who made the trip from Ellisville began the “tomahawk chop” as its musical accompaniment filled the Soso air.
“I challenged the entire team to answer the call from last week, and they did,” said South Jones head coach Cory Reynolds. “ The defense stepped up, the offense got after it, and it was just a great team effort.”
Hunter Parish found Garrick Randolph for a 33-yard scoring strike to put the Mustangs up 7-0 early in the second quarter as neither team dented the scoreboard in the opening 12 minutes of play.
The Braves then capitalized off a pair of Mustang miscues to take a touchdown lead into the locker room at intermission.
Mustang running back John Oliver fumbled and the Braves’ returned it to the West Jones’ 25-yard line. Then, Braves quarterback Will Mitchell hit Brandon Gordon for a 23-yard scoring strike and Sasser tacked on the PAT to tie the game at 7-7.
The Mustangs appeared to take the lead late in the half when Walker Thompson converted a 31-yard field goal. But West was whistled for a false start and backed up 5 yards. Thompson’s next kick was blocked and Zy Ferguson scooped up the ball and scampered 73 yards to the end zone for a Braves’ TD. Sasser kicked the PAT to give the Braves the halftime advantage.
“Turnovers and penalties will get you beat every single time,” said West Jones head coach Scott Pierson. “When you play a quality opponent and you make those kinds of mistakes, you will get the same kind of result that we did tonight.”
West Jones seized momentum late in the third quarter when Oliver ripped off a 65-yard scoring jaunt and Thompson added the PAT to tie the game at 14.
The two teams played a between the 20s during the final 12 minutes of action before both got into scoring position on their final possession.
The Mustangs’ final drive started at their own 43-yard line and six straight runs by Oliver and Sean Pickens had the Stangs knocking on the door in the red zone. Then Oliver took the hand-off and was hit and fumbled and the Braves’ Desmond Newell picked up the loose ball and returned it past midfield to the West Jones’ 42-yard line.
A pair of key runs by Mitchell, a 13-yarder on third down and long and then a 21-yarder inside the Mustangs’ 10-yard line, set up Sasser’s game-winning kick.
“I gave the guys three keys to win right before the game,” said Reynolds. “One was finish. Two was finish. Three was finish. Little things add up to big things and they are starting to see it work now.”
The Braves improved to 6-1 with the win and moved to 1-1 in Region 3-5A play, but the season was about to take a down turn. After a win over Natchez the following week the Braves lost their next three before beating Provine in the regular-season finale to finish 8-4 overall and 3-4 in region play.
The win over Provine came on a Thursday night and the Braves would make their way back to The ‘Shoe for the Mustangs’ final game as a spot in the playoffs were on the line.
West Jones took on Wingfield in its regular-season finale and, if the Mustangs picked up the win, then South would make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. But a Wingfield win would put them in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Mustangs couldn’t help out their neighbors from the Free State as Wingfield swooped in and picked up a 22-17 win that put the Falcons in the postseason and left the Braves at home for the playoffs.
The loss to Wingfield ended the Mustangs’ season at 5-6.