A-J rushes for 288 yards in win over Murphysboro
The Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team’s offense struggled in its season opening game in a win over West Frankfort.
But the Wildcat offense came to life in a 22-15 win over host Murphysboro Friday night, Sept. 2.
“We played with a little more intensity,” A-J football coach Brett Detering said. “We wanted to be able to run the football and the kids did that. Our offense came up to the challenge to make us a more complete team.”
With the win, the Wildcats improved to 2-0. The Red Devils fell to 0-2.
A-J’s offense, which was held to 54 yards rushing in the game against West Frankfort, posted 288 yards on the ground in the win against Murphysboro.
Jayce Turner led the way with 125 yards in 16 carries. Dylan Fox had 29 yards on 4 carries. Jackson Boyd had 24 yards on 9 carries and Trenton Turner added 23 yards on 5 carries.
“Jayce had a great night,” Detering said. The A-J coach noted that Wildcat quarterback Bryce Osman “did a better job of reading the option on offense, too.”
Osman picked up 64 yards rushing in 11 carries and was 1 of 5 passing for 23 yards with no interceptions. Dylan Fox had the lone reception for A-J.
Other parts of the Wildcats game stood out, as well.
“Our defense played well both weeks,” Detering said. “We put a lot of pressure on the quarterback” against Murphysboro.
The Red Devils did have some speed in the backfield behind running backs Cole McNitt, who had 84 yards rushing and Connor Graeff, who added 81 rushing yards.
Detering was also pleased with the play of the special teams in the win.
The Red Devils appeared to be on a mission to open the game as they marched down field. Fullback Brandon Caldwell capped a long drive with a touchdown, but it was called back on a Murphysboro holding penalty.
A couple of plays later, the Wildcats took over and marched down field, but failed to score deep in Red Devil territory. A-J had moved to the 15-yard line and had an incomplete pass on a fourth down.
On their next possession, the Red Devils were forced to punt and the Wildcats offense took over and started clicking.
Fox capped an 8-play drive with a 14-yard TD run.
A pass was incomplete for the conversion points and A-J led 6-0 with 7:09 remaining in the second quarter.
The Red Devils then drove to the Wildcats’ 18-yard line when Caldwell fumbled and Jayce Turner recovered.
The Wildcats then marched downfield and attempted a pass to Arieh Hart in the end zone that was knocked away by the Red Devil defenders to end the first half.
To open the second half, Hart returned the kick off 51 yards to move A-J to the Red Devils’ 25-yard line.
Two plays later, Jayce Turner scored on a 20-yard run.
Fox ran in the two-point conversion and A-J led 14-0 with only 55 seconds into the third quarter.
“It was a good momentum boost,” Detering said.
The Red Devils then launched their most impressive drive of the game and McNitt capped a 6-play drive by scoring on a 1-yard run. Max Hoem scored on the conversion points run and Murphysboro pulled to 14-7 with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter.
The teams did not score again until late in the fourth quarter, when A-J launched a 56-yard three-play drive and scored on Jayce Turner’s 24-yard run.
Jayce Turner added the conversion points run to boost A-J to a 22-7 advantage with 1:58 remaining in the game.
Eight plays later, Murphysboro capped a 64-yard drive with a McNitt score on a 20-yard run. Caldwell caught the conversion points pass and closed out the scoring with 15 seconds remaining.
Wildcat quarterback Osman dropped to a knee to run out the clock after a Red Devil onside kick failed and A-J took over near midfield.
“Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going and build from this and continue to get better,” Detering said.
The accompanying photographs highlight some of the action at the game. Photos by Tiffiny Dillow for The Gazette-Democrat.