With division title on line, A-J defeats Du Quoin 42-36
With the Southern Illinois River-to-River Mississippi Division Conference title on the line, the Anna-Joneboro Community High School football team prevailed in a 42-36 win over visiting Du Quoin at The Pit Friday night, Oct. 6.
“I was really proud of the kids,” A-J football coach Brett Detering said. “They made some mistakes, but they never quit – they continued to fight.”
The Wildcats improved to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the conference. The Indians fell to 5-2 and 2-2 in the league.
A-J has one league game remaining with 1-6 Sparta. The other league front runner, Carterville, is 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the league.
“You’ve got to give Du Quoin a lot of credit,” Detering said. “They had a lot of speed and they made some big plays. If they win we probably tie (Carterville) for the conference.”
It didn’t come easy for the Wildcats.
With the game tied 36-36 with 1:34 remaining, Du Quoin moved to midfield before quarterback Hank Stewart’s pass was picked off by A-J safety Noah Smith, who dove toward the ball and held on as he slid to the ground.
“We had to get a defensive stop and Noah Smith was in the right spot,” Detering said.
Going into that final pass play and his first interception of the game, Stewart was 10 of 15 passing for 178 yards.
Prior to the interception, with the game knotted at 36-36, the Wildcats were on the move.
Fullback Jayce Turner scored on a 21-yard run to cap a 6-play drive. The extra-point kick was off and A-J held a 6-point advantage with 2:06 remaining in the game.
“Our offense got shut down a little in the second half,” Detering said. “But the last drive we got it going.”
The interception sealed the win for the Wildcats, as they made one play and then quarterback Bryce Osman took a knee to run out the clock.
The Indians wasted little time getting rolling to open the game.
Du Quoin’s Westly Milam scored on a 3-yard run to cap a 5-play drive. Kameron Johnson’s extra point kick put the Indians ahead 7-0 with 9:46 remaining in the first quarter.
The Wildcats countered as Arieh Hart broke loose for a 71-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Four plays later, Turner scored on a 7-yard run.
The extra point kick was blocked and A-J trailed 7-6 with 7:52 remaining in the first quarter.
The Indians were forced to punt on their next drive. The ball sailed over punter Charley Mercier’s head and he recovered at the 1-yard line.
On the next play, Turner scored. The conversion run was stopped and A-J led 12-7 with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter.
After A-J was forced to kick again after the first attempt went out of bounds, the Indians took over at their own 35-yard line.
Quarterback Stewart then rambled 65 yards for a TD. Johnson’s kick put Du Quoin ahead 14-12 with 5:51 left in the opening quarter.
The Wildcats bounced right back. Osman scored on a 20-yard run to cap an 11-play drive. Sheldon McGrath’s extra point kick put A-J ahead 19-14 with 11.8 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Indians were then stopped on a fourth down run at midfield. The Wildcats’ next drive was thwarted when Lawson Ridgeway intercepted an Osman pass.
Reid Morrison sacked Stewart for a big loss to stop the next Indian drive.
Centered around a long pass to Hart from Osman, Luke McMahan scored on a 26-yard run after a 7-play drive. Turner ran in the conversion points and A-J led 27-14 with 47 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff return, the Indians’ Donovan McBride made a big run and was halted by A-J’s Damian Chrisp on the Wildcats’ 1-yard line.
Milam then scored and following Johnson’s extra point kick, Du Quoin pulled to 27-21 with 28 seconds remaining in the first half.
Hart made a nifty return on the ensuing kickoff, but time ran out to end the first half.
Punter Zach Massey was then called in to punt for the Wildcats’ for the first time in the game in their opening drive to start the second half.
The Indians were forced to punt on their following drive, but a bad snap from center sailed over punter Mercier’s head and it went in the endzone for a safety to build A-J’s lead to 29-21.
“They struggled in their punting game,” Detering said. “We took advantage of some opportunities. But we certainly made mistakes, too, and didn’t always have great coverage on them.”
The teams then traded punts again and Du Quoin had another high snap. A-J was able to recover this time at the Indians’ 8-yard line.
Morrison then scored but fumbled in the end zone and teammate McMahan recovered for the TD.
McGrath’s kick put A-J ahead 36-21 with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter.
After three plays, Du Quoin’s McBride scored on a 63-yard run. Johnson’s kick pulled the Indians to 36-28 with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter.
After another A-J punt, the Indians were on the move again. Milam scored on a 1-yard run after a 5-play drive.
Smith passed to Mercier for the conversion points and the score was knotted at 36-36 with 6:25 remaining in the game.
Turner then closed out the scoring with the game-winning TD.
Du Quoin was held to 139 yards rushing, while A-J rushed for 308 yards.
Turner led the way with 114 yards rushing on 21 carries. Osman had 99 yards on 18 carries. Hart had 62 yards on 9 carries and McMahan added 37 yards on 4 carries.
Osman was 4 of 7 passing for 53 yards with that lone interception. Hart led the way with 43 yards on 3 receptions.