BAY SPRINGS — Jacario Ducksworth’s 86-yard punt return 86’ed Northeast Jones’ comeback hopes as Bay Springs ended its losing streak to the Tigers, 34-17, on Friday night.
The senior receiver/returner caught Patrick Little’s punt at the 14-yard line, stepped to his left as white jerseys swarmed past him, then sprinted up the sideline to give the home team another two-touchdown lead after the Tigers had battled back to tie it.
“It was a game at halftime,” a frustrated NEJ coach Keith Braddock said. “But we come out and turn it over, then don’t execute in the kicking game, and that’s it ...”
The Tigers (0-5), who are still trying for their first win of the season, fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter. Duck- sworth caught a 21-yard TD from Adrian Cole (4-for-8, 70 yards) to cap the home team’s opening drive (10 plays, 78 yards), then Anson Windham (18 carries, 125 yards) scored from 6 yards out on the second drive (7 plays, 66 yards). Ducksworth’s extra-point kicks made
it 14-0 less than nine minutes into the game. But the second quarter belonged to the Tigers. Quarterback Mason Smith (5-for-9, 53 yards), who was filling in for injured starter Fifi Magee, ran around end for a 14-yard score to finish off a seven-play, 66-yard drive that was highlighted by three first-down runs by Jazaylon Morris (16 carries, 108 yards).
After a big defensive stand, the Tigers got the ball back and Smith tossed a 9-yard scoring strike to Jay Jones with less than a minute to go in the half. That capped a 12-play, 63-yard drive that featured seven runs by Morris and a first-down plunge by Tony Barnes (13 carries, 53 yards) on fourth-and-short. Jason Garcia’s PAT made it 14-14 at the break.
The Tigers had the ball to start the second half, but a pass behind the line of scrimmage hit the ground, the Bulldogs fell on it and Jamarius Hosey (12 carries, 81 yards) scored from 30 yards out on the home team’s first play of the second half, with Tigers hanging on his tail much of the way.
Bay Springs forced NE Jones to punt on the next series, and that’s when Ducksworth ducked defenders and Wind- ham added a two-point run to give their team a two-TD cushion with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
“Duck is always one of the best athletes on the field ... he can do so many things,” Bay Springs coach Dan Brady said. “He’d been down on himself ... It’s good to see him have some success tonight. He deserves it.”
Garcia booted a 28-yard field goal near the end of the period, but the Tigers didn’t threaten again.
Dallen Jones added a 4-yard TD early in the fourth after a 10-play, 63-yard drive for the Bulldogs. Antonio Hayes blocked the PAT attempt.
Morris was a bright spot for NEJ. He became the first Tiger runner to top the 100-yard mark this season.
The Bulldogs were coming off their first loss of the season, at West Jones, and they’d lost three consecutive close ones to Northeast Jones.
“When they came back like they did, it was a flashback to a couple of years ago,” Brady said. “Northeast Jones did a great job preparing for us. They took advantage of some things we were doing, and that’s a credit to Coach Braddock and his staff.”
The Tigers have an off week next week.
“We’ve got to keep working,” Braddock said. “That’s all we can do. The off week comes at a good time for us.”
The Tigers will face Northeast Lauderdale in their region opener on Sept. 28.
The Bulldogs face Quitman in one more non-region game next Friday.
“I like where we’re headed this year,” Brady said of his team. “They’ve bought in.”