Hip surgery in August is keeping Stephenson head coach Ron Gartrell off the sidelines during games. His team was just fine without him Friday night at Tara Stadium.
The Jaguars used a second half surge to move to 4-2 (3-0 in Region 4-AAAAAA) with a 27-0 win over Jonesboro (2-4, 1-2). Stephenson led 7-0 at halftime but wore down the smaller Cardinals in the second half.
“That was the plan,” said Gartrell, who sits in a chair behind the end zone. He’s relegated to game planning during the week and helping that staff make adjustments at half time.
“We knew we could move the ball on them, on the ground and through the air. We went in at halftime and made some adjustments, and cut down on the penalties,” Gartrell said. “Penalties killed us in the first half. But we got it going and Deonte Jackson ran the ball well for us."
Indeed the 6-foot, 200-pound senior got Stephenson’s offense rolling in the second half. The Jaguars started at their own 20-yard line and needed just seven plays to drive 80 yards. Jackson barreled in from 3 yards out to stretch the Stephenson lead to 13-0, after the point after kick failed. Jackson did most of the damage on the drive, carrying four times for 58 yards. He also had a 13-yard run nullified by a holding penalty.
Jonesboro was on the verge of answering on its first possession of the half. The Cardinals started on their 30-yard line and found success on the ground, mostly on inside traps and with scat back Matavion Brooks. Jonesboro moved to the Stephenson 32-yard line but on second-and-short, Jaguar defensive back Ira Henderson stripped Rasheed Singleton after a short gain on a quick screen.
Stephenson took over on its 33-yard line and wasted little time capitalizing on the turnover. Runs by Jackson and a 19-yard pass from quarterback Darren Parker to Deshon Stoudemire quickly moved the Jaguars into the red zone. On second-and-one, Henderson took a quick shovel pass from Parker and raced around the left end for a 19-yard touchdown to give Stephenson a 20-0 lead.
The Jaguars took advantage of another defensive-created turnover for its final points of the night. Senior defensive end Darius Perry blocked a punt midway through the fourth quarter and Stephenson took over on the Cardinal 20-yard line. A holding penalty backed the Jaguars up momentarily, but on third-and-10 from the 20, Parker connected with Stoudemire on a stutter-go route in the back of the end zone.
Stephenson has now won four in a row and will have a week off before facing Drew, Mt. Zion-Jonesboro and M.L. King – three teams currently at the bottom of the region with a combined record of 4-11 – before closing out the regular season against rival Tucker, in a game that will most likely be for the region championship.
“We have a week off now and it comes at a good time,” Gartrell said. “We can heal up a little and work on some fundamentals, clean up on some things we’re doing well and work on some things we need to improve on. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”
Stephenson 7 0 13 7 27
Jonesboro 0 0 0 0 0
S – Zytekeat Tillman 2 run (kick good)
S – Deondre Jackson 3 run (kick failed)
S – Ira Henderson 19 run (kick good)
S – Deshon Stoudemire 20 pass (kick good)