A-J football opens with win over West Frankfort
The visiting Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team took advantage of early West Frankfort miscues on its way to a 43-18 win in the 2017 season opener for both teams Friday, Aug. 25.
“That was a nice win,” A-J head coach Brett Detering said. “I was really pleased with how we played. They made some mistakes. But I believe our kids were creating a lot of those.”
The Wildcats wasted little time getting on the scoreboard after a Redbird miscue.
West Frankfort quarterback Connor Eaton’s pass was intercepted by Conner Jerolds on the home team’s first drive.
Nine plays later, Jayce Turner scored on a 2-yard run. Sheldon McGrath kicked the extra point and A-J was ahead 7-0 with 5:68 remaining in the first quarter.
“It was good to get our rushing game going early,” Detering said. “It gave them a lot of confidence.”
A-J’s Ariel Hart thwarted the Redbird’s ensuing drive when he stripped the football out of running back Madison Allen’s hands in the end zone for a touchback.
For the first and only time in the game, A-J was stalled on its next drive and was forced to punt.
After A-J was offsides on the first play from scrimmage, the Redbirds’ Allen fumbled on the next play and the Wildcats’ Turner recovered.
Eleven plays later, A-J quarterback Bryce Osman scored on a 2-yard plunge.
McGrath’s extra point kick put A-J on top 14-0 with 9:28 remaining in the second quarter.
Hart made a nifty kickoff return on the next drive to set up A-J’s next TD.
Four plays later, Turner scored on a 2-yard plunge. McGrath’s kick was off and A-J led 20-0 with 6:57 remaining in the first half.
The Redbirds’ Allen then capped a five-play drive with what appeared to be a 49-yard TD run that was negated because of a personal foul call.
Damien Chrisp kept A-J’s next drive alive by recovering an Osman fumble.
Osman capped a seven-play drive with a 5-yard TD run. Hart ran in the conversion points and A-J was in front 28-0 with 1:50 remaining in the first half.
But the first half was far from over.
Kyle Hammers then scampered 90 yards on the kickoff return for a Redbird TD. The extra point kick was blocked and West Frankfort had pulled to 28-6 with 1:00 remaining in the first half.
The kickoff return was fumbled and the Redbirds took over deep in A-J territory.
Quarterback Eaton then capped a six-play drive with a 15-yard TD pass to Hammers. The conversion run was halted and West Frankfort pulled to 28-12 with 23 seconds remaining in the first half.
“I saw the game film and we made some mistakes,” Detering said. “Busted coverage and things like that are some things we need to work on.”
The Wildcats continued to roll in the second half.
On an option pass, Jerolds threw to Chrisp for a 25-yard TD pass to cap a 10-play drive.
Turner ran in the conversion points and A-J led 36-12 with 7:36 remaining in the third quarter.
After Kyle McMahan recovered a Redbird fumble, West Frankfort returned the favor on A-J’s next drive recovering Turner’s fumble.
But, the drive stalled on another intercepted pass by Jerolds and A-J’s offense went to work again.
Turner then capped a 10-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Jaryt Tripp kicked the conversion points and A-J led 43-12 with 8:00 remaining in the game.
West Frankfort’s Allen closed out the scoring with 2:30 remaining in the game when he scored on a 5-yard run. The extra point kick was blocked to close out the scoring.
Reserve quarterback Jerolds took a knee twice in the final seconds to end the game.
Turner led A-J with 200 yards rushing on 32 carries and scored three TDs.
Osman was 4 of 6 passing for 93 yards. Jerolds was 1 of 1 passing for 24 yards.
Chrisp had two receptions for 63 yards. McMahan had a reception for 30 yards and Hart had two receptions for 24 yards.
“I was pleased overall,” Detering said. “I felt like we made some improvements from last year. We played even better.”
The Wildcats only had 53 yards rushing in last year’s win over the Redbirds. They accumulated 321 yards rushing this time.
This was Detering’s 13th consecutive win over West Frankfort.