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Jaguars maul FAMU, Leon in back-to-back victories at Spring Jamboree

After a wet afternoon last Thursday, the skies opened up for the Spring Football Jamboree.

The Gadsden County Jaguars battled it out for two quarters against Florida A&M University Developmental Research School and two quarters against Leon High School. There was a host of support from Jaguar fans and local area coaches to see the talents on the field.

A former East Gadsden standout now Florida State Offensive Tackle Derrick Kelly was among the supporters there to watch his brother De’erick Kelly.

Interim Head Coach Shannon Faison said before the game that they planned to take what they can get offensively and the defense was much more athletic than last year. Head Coach Joseph Striplin was sidelined due to health issues, but was here for the game.

The game began much like the field conditions with sloppy play. Gadsden quarterback Jaheim Knight worked hard offensively battling through muddy and slippery field conditions. Knight said after the game it was difficult to throw the ball so the Jaguars needed to stick to the ground and pound.

Setting up the Jaguars first touchdown was a string of powerful runs by Keleion Rich and a tenacious 40 yard scramble from Knight who lowered his shoulder through a defender to pick up an additional 15 yards. Knight set up a nice touchdown pass in the back corner of the endzone to Zandavian Atkins.

Timothy Bates, a two-sport athlete in football and soccer, kicked in the extra point. The Jaguars continued to make stops on defense with big plays from Safety, Antwan Betsy and Defensive End, Keith Dawkins. Back on offense, Knight’s pass to Armon Williams on a hook route set the Jaguars up at the 1 yard line with a run from James Murray to power through the line for a touchdown.

The Jaguars bit the Rattlers 14-0 then turned around and played the next half against hosts the Leon Lions. The Lions looked quicker to start the game probably because they were fresh.

The Lions were able to draw the Jaguars offsides numerous times and started the game up 7 to 0. Members of Lions defense yelled, “They are not scoring on us.”

Adversity mounted for the Jaguars as an Antwan Betsy touchdown run was called back for a holding penalty. The game came down to the final minute. The Jaguars were still down 7-0 and it was 4th and goal from the 15 because of a previous penalty call.

The Lions, instead of defending the pass, placed eight in the box, which allowed wide receiver Keyion Robinson to get open in the endzone and tie the game. With little time left on the clock the Jaguars had to trust the defense to hold on for the tie.

Lion’s running back Parker Wilson was primed to pull his team to victory. The Jaguar’s defensive line held strong and did not jump offsides on any false snaps. With seconds left the Lion’s ran a dump play to the weak side which was intercepted by Kelveonte Hinson and returned for a touchdown to complete the come-from-behind victory 14-7. The players were excited after winning the double header.

Doug Stephens, Athletic Director at Gadsden County said, “When you have guys that want to be here, that work hard, and they listen to coaching, this is what you get.” The team’s dedication to practice and commitment to getting better showed.

Interim Head Coach Shannon Faison told the team, “All that running (in practice) is worth it now, right.”

After the players shook hands, the Jaguars huddled in the end zone where Coach Striplin told his players how proud he was of their effort.

“You played through adversity and showed your heart today,” Striplin said. “That takes a tremendous amount of character and I am excited to see this team next year.”

Gabe Stephens

Gadsden High defensive back Jaqayvious Pride stays just beyond reach of a Leon County High School tackler. PHOTO BY GABE STEPHENS