Trojans advance to 2nd round playoffsBy JOSHUA SEABROOK,
It may not have been as pretty as the 32-0 thrashing the Trojans handed the Jefferson County Tigers in their first matchup of the season way back in Week 1, but it was enough for Magee to claim the victory and move on to round 2 of the playoffs.
Beating the same team twice is a difficult feat, especially when you have not seen that team since the first game of the season. A lot changes are made in that time. Teams get scouting reports and find out your strengths and weaknesses, and injuries take tolls on teams. Magee managed to keep themselves focused against an opponent they had crushed the first go around and not look over them as a guaranteed win.
Cayden "Bear" Bridges took the opening kickoff to the Magee 41, where the Trojans would go to work. After an incomplete pass from Chandler "Da Mayor" Pittman to Josh Sanders, Magee was gifted 5-yards on a Jefferson County offside penalty. Bridges then took a handoff 54-yards, untouched to the endzone to put the Trojans up 6-0 with 11:23 remaining in the first quarter. Looking to respond, the Tigers took the ensuing kickoff to their own 40. Adrion Clark picked up 5 yards on a carry to set up 2nd and 5. A low snap was fired back by the center and rolled between the legs of quarterback Marques Smith and recovered by Magee’s Janorris Newsome at the Jefferson County 45. The Trojan offense returned to the field looking to keep the momentum from the explosive first drive rolling. After incomplete passes on 1st and 2nd downs, Pittman connected with Sanders to move the chains after a 11-yard pass. Jawon Shaw took his first carry of the ballgame up the gut for no gain as the Tigers closed off the middle of the line quickly. Pittman turned to Matthew Thurman for 15yards and another Magee first down. Pittman then fired a pass intended for Xavier Franks that was nearly hauled down by the stud wide out, but Franks was ruled to have been out of bounds when he made the reception. On the play, the Trojans were flagged for an illegal man down field and backed up 5-yards to set up 1st and 15. Pittman tossed the ball to Thurman who went in motion from the slot and picked up 2 yards on the shovel pass. After a 1-yard Shaw run, a bad snap to Pittman ended with the quarterback scrambling to the 11 to set up 4th down. Sam Rials and the field goal unit trotted out for a 30-yard attempt. The Tigers again gifted Magee 5 yards with an offside penalty to trim the attempt to a 25-yarder for Rials.
The Trojans' field goal unit had difficulty all night giving Rials enough time. Rials' attempt was blocked as a handful of Tigers broke through the line to force Magee to settle for no points after the turnover. Despite the kick taking place near the 11, the referees moved the ball out to the 20 as if it had been a touchback despite Jefferson County player catching the ball in the endzone.
The Tiger offense returned to the field looking to even the score or take the lead on the drive. Jeheime Herrington got the drive started with a 4-yard run. Jody Durr made his presence known with a 6-yard tackle for loss to force Jefferson County in to 3rd and 10. After an incomplete pass, the Tigers rolled out the punt team and downed the ball at the Magee 47. The Trojan drive got off to a bad start after a 4-yard pass to Bridges was negated by a holding penalty to move back to the Magee 38. Bridges picked up 2 yards on a run, followed by a 1-yard run by Pittman to set up 3rd and 14. Pittman then took things into his own hands as he scurried for a 15-yard gain to keep the drive going. Despite early trouble finding room, Shaw was able to break through for a 12-yard gain followed by a 13-yard run to move the Trojans to the Tiger 18. A jet sweep to Sanders netted 5 yards to set up 2nd and 5 for the Trojans. Pittman then put up a well thrown fade in the back corner of the endzone that was snagged by Franks for a 13-yard touchdown with a good 2-pt conversion to put Magee up 14-0 with 1:47 left in the 1st quarter.
On the following kickoff, the Tigers mishandled the kick as it rolled through the returner’s hands to the JFC 2. The return man picked the ball up and appeared to initially think he was in the endzone and looked as if he was going to kneel down at the 2 for what he thought would be a touchback. After realizing he was not in the endzone, the returner attempted to scramble for yards but was met by a herd of Trojans and taken down at the Tiger 4. With their backs against their goal line, Jefferson County went to work. Smith started the drive with a 4-yard run to give the offense a little more room to breath at the 8. After a 1-yard run on 2nd down, Smith rolled out on 3rd down and found Clark for an 8-yard gain to pick up a 1st down. Kendrick January Jr. then picked up 12 yards to get out to the JFC 30. After an incomplete pass on 1st, Cassius Walker and Montarro Collins teamed up to stop Joquon Green for no gain. An illegal chop block was called on the Tigers to set up 2nd and 20. After an incomplete pass, Jefferson County faced 3rd and 20 at their own 25. Smith dropped back and hit Clark on a quick pass that was taken 75 yards to the house by the speedy wide out to cut into the deficit. After a successful 2-pt conversion, the Tigers trailed 14-8 with 10:00 remaining in the 1st half of play.
The teams then exchanged punts, ending with Magee taking over at their own 26 with a little over 5 minutes remaining in the half. Shaw started the drive with a 5-yard run to get things going. Tiger cornerback Javarous Austin had a rough night. He was on the business end of the fade to Franks for a touchdown and was now tasked with covering Bridges on a deep ball that ended with Austin being posterized by Bridges for a 25-yard gain over Austin's head. After a 5-yard Shaw run was brought back by another Magee hold. Another low snap was fired to Pittman who was again forced to improvise. Pittman scrambled around and fired a pass towards Bridges, who was run into as the ball was in the air for a defensive pass interference call on the Tigers to give Magee 15-yards. Pittman then connected with Franks, who pulled away from a defender and picked up 10 yards and a Magee 1st down. After taking a 3-yard loss on a keeper, Pittman connected with Sanders, who was all alone in the back of the endzone for a 15-yard touchdown to give Magee a 20-8 lead that they would hold going into the half.
The Tigers started the 2nd half with the ball at their own 40. Jefferson County made a halftime adjustment, opting to go with a heavy dose of the wildcat formation with Herrington in as the QB. Herrington took the direct snap and picked up 9 yards, followed by a handoff to Caljarious Jackson that netted 10 yards to move to the Magee 37. Nathaniel King took a fullback dive for 6 yards and another for 2 yards to set up 3rd and 2. Herrington then took a direct snap and started up the middle, where he found no room and bounced the run outside where he found room to run, moving the ball down to the Magee 15. Smith reentered the game as the QB and immediately fumbled the snap and was dropped at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Elton Fitzgerald ran for 1 yard down to the 9 before a holding penalty following a short run moved the Tigers back to the Trojan 13. The promising drive screeched to an abrupt halt after a bad snap rolled back to the 37 of Magee to set up 4th and 23. Jefferson County tried a trick play as Smith pitched the ball to Herrington, who threw it back to Smith for a pick-up of only 6-yards, giving Magee the ball back at their own 31. The Trojans were unable to get anything going offensively and were forced to punt. The snap to Juan Morales was mishandled and Morales was taken down at the Magee 23 to give the Tigers magnificent starting field position. Herrington wasted little time capitalizing on the advantage as he took the quarterback sweep around the outside for a 23-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. After another successful 2-pt conversion, the Trojans' lead stood at 20-16 with 5:10 remaining in the 3rd.
Magee then did what good teams do after giving up a score and took the ball down the field to answer. After starting at their own 28 and backing up 5-yards after an illegal procedure, Pittman connected with Franks on a deep pass to get to midfield. Pittman then kept for 4-yards followed by another Pittman keeper for 14 to move to the JFC 35. Pittman hit Franks for 16, before back-to-back runs by Shaw ended with a 7-yard touchdown to give Magee a 26-16 lead with 2:27 remaining in the 3rd. The Tigers were forced into a 3-and-out and lined up to punt. Bridges came up to receive the punt but muffed the catch. The ball rolled away from Bridges and a free-for-all ensued as both teams scrapped for it. Magee came away with the ball and looked to take over at their own 35. However, after the play, the head referee grabbed and jerked Steven Durr to say something to him. Durr, not knowing who grabbed him, pulled away. The referee again grabbed and jerked Durr harder this time, turning the Trojan linebacker around to see him. Durr, obviously shocked to have been manhandled by a referee, again jerked away with his right arm, this time drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty and an ejection from the head referee. The penalty disqualified Durr for the remainder of the ball game and moved Magee back to their own 20. The Trojans were unable to pick up a first down on the drive and were forced to punt to the JFC 40. After runs of 11 and 2-yards by Herrington, a pass from Smith intended for Clark was tipped and intercepted at their own 46. The Trojans now had an opportunity to essentially put the game out of reach after the turnover. Pittman took off for a big gain on the first play of the drive, but another holding penalty negated the run and put the Trojans back to their own 36. The relentless quarterback again took off, gashing the Tiger defense for 15-yards and a Magee 1st down. Shaw then took three straight carries for 5, 1, and 6-yards to move to the JFC 31. After a 1-yard run by Pittman, Shaw took a handoff at the 30 and busted through the line out to the 20 where he planted his right foot before cutting back and leaving a member of the Tiger secondary in his tracks for a 30-yard touchdown to push the lead to 33-16 with 7:35 left in the game.
Despite trailing by 17 points, the Tigers refused to give up. After taking over at their own 30, Smith connected with January Jr. for a 55-yard pass to move into Magee territory. Herrington then took off for a 7-yard run to move inside the Trojan 10. After a dropped snap by Herrington that was nearly recovered by Newsome for Magee, Smith picked up 10 on a scramble after being forced out of the pocket to set up 1st and goal. Zyrus Craft then stuffed Herrington at the 4 for a loss of a yard. Walker and Pittman teamed up to tackle Herrington in the backfield again for a loss of 5 on the play. Smith connected with Clark at the 3 to set up 4th and goal. Smith dialed his own number on a quarterback sneak that barely made it across the goal line for a touchdown, followed by a successful 2-pt conversion. The Magee lead was cut to 33-24 with 3:52 remaining. Rather than going for the onside kick, the Tigers opted to kick it deep and play defense with the hopes of forcing the Trojans to turn the ball over or force a stop and a punt. Magee drove down to the JFC 11 before turning the ball over on downs with little over a minute in the game. After an incompletion on 1st down, Smith heaved a prayer deep downfield that was intercepted by Thurman to seal the victory for the Trojans.
After the game, Coach Teddy Dyess breathed a sigh of relief that his team had held on to advance. "It was ugly, but this time of year all you want to be is 1-0, and we survived, advanced, and we've got another week to work on things and get better."
Dyess went on to point out some of the bright spots the team needs to continue in round 2 as well as some areas that need improving to continue forward in the playoffs. "We answered every time we had to. They lined up and started running right at us and we didn't do very well and we have to do better on that. We've got to be able to close a game out. When it was 33-24, we have to be able to stick that in there and make it 40-24. We've got to finish."
The Trojans move on to the second round of the playoffs to face the Lions of Raleigh on the road, as both teams vie for a berth into the third round of the playoffs in what looks to be another chilly Friday night of football.