Needing a win to get in, Drew showed the grit of a postseason-bound squad by erasing a 16-0 deficit to secure a 27-19 come-from-behind victory against Jonesboro at Southern Crescent Stadium. As a result, the Titans clinched the No. 4 seed from Region 4-AAAAAA.
“We beat ourselves up in the first half with all the mistakes and penalties. It’s just small things. We’re so young and inexperienced. They had all the confidence in the world. If we didn’t turn the ball over like we did in the first half, the kids believed that what we had going on was going to work,” said Drew head coach Dorwyn Lyles.
Drew was asleep at the wheel throughout the first half. The offense was ineffective with multiple missed blocking assignments and errant passes which led to interceptions. On defense, they failed to clog holes and wrap up on tackles.
The team’s postseason hopes almost faded into thin air as Jonesboro looked to play the role of spoiler.
Jonesboro recorded a safety in the first quarter and then running back Jabari Knox stole the show in the second, posting two touchdowns. He opened the frame with a 50-yard dash. On the next possession, the speedster blazed around the end for a 2-yard score.
Later in the second quarter, Drew’s lethargic offense finally displayed a power boost. Quarterback Gary Tyner used his legs to put catapult the Titans with a 26-yard scramble down to the 2-yard line. He later used his arm to connect with Derionte Kemp for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion was unsuccessful, making it a 16-6 score. The 10-point margin would hold at halftime.
Tyner added to his scoring total late in the third quarter when he rushed in from 7-yards out, shrinking the lead to 16-13.
Early in the fourth, kicker Aseal Castaneda drilled a 30-yard field goal to push the Cardinals ahead, 19-13. This would be the last time for cheer on their sideline.
Drew continued to build on its second-half momentum. Tyner racked up his third total touchdown of the evening when he muscled his way across the goal line for the Titans’ first lead of the game.
“We just to play our game. We were beating ourselves in the first half,” said Tyner. “This is the best feeling. This is what we worked for all year. This is my first time going to the playoffs as the starting quarterback.”
The Titans stamped an exclamation mark on the contest and a trip to the state playoffs with a late touchdown by Cedric Davenport.
“With all the adversity we’ve gone through, it’s been a grind. To get the opportunity to be in the playoffs, this is where we want to be,” said Lyles. “This is where we saw ourselves at the beginning of the season. Despite all the different things going on around us, we had confidence we would be here. It was just a matter of getting things together to work on the same accord to have this opportunity.”
Jonesboro ends the year on a down note. The team was already eliminated from the playoffs prior to the kickoff. They put up a strong effort but failed to close the door on the surging Titans.
“We started out pretty good. They got momentum with that score at the end of the half. We couldn’t get anything going offensively. I thought they always had an explosive offense and they found their groove in the second half,” said Jonesboro head coach Tim Floyd.