A-J scores homecoming victory over Carterville
The leader in the Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference Mississippi Division high school football race came to the forefront last Friday.
The host Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team claimed that honor with a convincing 41-7 homecoming win over visiting Carterville at The Pit.
“It’s one of the best games one of our teams has played in the last five or six years,” A-J Coach Brett Detering said. “I really felt our offensive, defensive and special teams played well.”
The Wildcats are undefeated at 5-0 and 2-0 in the conference. The Lions drop to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the league.
“It gives us a good start in the conference,” Detering said. “But we’ve got to keep going and stay focused. We’ve still got work to do and we have to stay humble and hungry.”
Since Carterville joined the conference in 2010, A-J had not beaten the Lions.
An always tough Du Quoin squad is looming on the schedule for A-J in two weeks.
The Wildcats wasted little time taking charge in Friday night’s game.
After Carterville was forced to punt on its opening drive, A-J was on the move.
Jayce Turner scored on a 17-yard run after an 11-play drive. Jaryt Tripp’s extra point kick gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 4:03 remaining in the first quarter.
The Lions failed to convert on their next drive, and the Wildcats were on the move again.
Turner scored on a 25-yard run after a 3-play drive. Tripp’s kick gave A-J a 14-0 advantage with 56.5 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
“We picked up a couple of big third downs then and we were ahead 14-0 in the first quarter,” Detering said.
Carterville’s next drive was stalled when A-J’s Reid Morrison sacked Lion quarterback Christian Rawlinson.
After a Lion punt, A-J’s offense began clicking again.
Arieh Hart, who injured an ankle last week, opened A-J’s next drive with a 10-yard run. Wildcat quarterback Bryce Osman then scored on a 16-yard run at the end of a 3-play drive. Tripp’s kick was good and A-J was ahead 21-0 with 10:16 remaining in the first half.
Following another Lion punt, A-J was on the move again.
Turner scored on a 2-yard run at the end of a lengthy 11-play drive.
Tripp’s kick put the Wildcats ahead 28-0 with 2:34 remaining in the first half.
The Lions picked up only their second first down of the first half on their next drive, which ended the first half.
A-J took the opening kickoff to begin the second half and Morrison broke loose for a 79-yard TD run after four plays.
Tripp’s kick was no good and A-J led 34-0 with 9:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Morrison sacked quarterback Rawlinson for a big loss to force a Carterville punt on its next drive.
On the punt, Osman broke through the line and recovered the football from the punter after it was mishandled on the 6-yard line.
Turner then scored on the next play. Sheldon McGrath kicked the extra point and A-J was ahead 41-0 with 7:00 left in the third quarter.
With the home team ahead by a wide margin, a continuous clock closed out the game.
The Wildcats then put in the reserves the rest of the way.
The Lions finally scored their lone TD on an 11-yard pass from Rawlinson to Justin Johnson after a 9-play drive. Markas Lazdinis extra point kick closed out the scoring with 8:50 remaining in the game.
Carterville was limited to 16 total yards rushing and 70 yards passing.
The Wildcats had 335 yards rushing, with Turner tallying 112 yards on 16 carries. Morrison added 113 yards on 2 carries. Osman added 57 yards on 11 carries.
Several defensive players for A-J stood out with numerous tackles.
“I thought Nick Sanders played well as a linebacker,” Detering said.
With the rushing game clicking, Osman attempted one pass and was 1 of 1 passing for a 36-yard strike to Hart.
Carterville’s Division I prospect and its top receiver Luke Ford suffered a broken collarbone prior to the game and didn’t play.
“That injury tempered their emotions a bit,” Detering said. “It seemed to affect them a little. That’s challenging to have a key injury like that.”
But Detering noted that injuries were part of the game and the Wildcats have suffered their share as well.