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Northeast Jones Tigers pounce on ailing Panthers

LAUREL – Daniel Rustin rushed for 110 yards and three touchdownsand the Northeast Jones defense held Brookhaven to 54 total yardsin the Tigers’ 26-0 Friday night victory over the Panthers in thefirst round of the Class 4A playoffs.

“Northeast Jones has a good football team with a lot oftradition and it’s a class program,” said Brookhaven head coachAndrew Hickman.

The Panthers, Region 6-4A’s fourth-seeded team, completed theirseason with a 5-5 record. Northeast Jones, Region 5-4A’s No. 1seed, improved to 9-2 and will travel

to Florence next Friday for its second round game. The Eaglesearned a berth with a 23-20 victory over Lawrence County Friday.The Tigers defeated Florence, 20-12, earlier this season.

The Tiger defense controlled the game from the start. NortheastJones defensive back Sean Woodland picked off a Billy Williams passon the Panthers’ second play from scrimmage.

Northeast Jones then ran the ball seven times for 31 yards, withRustin carrying the final six yards off left tackle for the Tigers’first touchdown. Travis West kicked the point after and the Tigersled 7-0 with 6:52 to play in the first quarter.

Northeast Jones’ second possession was an 11-play, 67-yard marchthat culminated in a 1-yard touchdown dive by Rustin. West’s PATkick put the Tigers up 14-0 with 10:45 remaining in the secondperiod.

With the Tigers driving into the Brookhaven red zone, thePanthers got their first break. An errant Northeast Jones pitchfell to the ground and defensive end Julius Lloyd recovered forBrookhaven at the Panther 35.

Brookhaven picked up its initial first down of the game duringthe ensuing series, but the Panthers were stopped on downs. Thenext time the Panthers had the ball, Woodland intercepted anotherWilliams pass and returned it 32 yards to the Brookhaven 42.

Two plays later, Nathan Jack threw a 40-yard bomb to FredrickJoshua in the end zone for a touchdown with 26 seconds left in thefirst half. West’s kick was blocked by Emmanuel Perkins, leavingthe margin at 20-0 at the half.

Midway through the third quarter, Northeast Jones took over atthe Brookhaven 41. Four plays later, Rustin ran to his left, cut upthe middle and went into the end zone standing for an 11-yardtouchdown. The point after try was wide left to leave the score at26-0 with 5:05 to go in the

period.

The Panthers were able to gain just 20 total yards over theirfinal three possessions and Northeast Jones ran out the remainingtime.

“Whoever wins at the line wins the game and they controlled bothlines,” said Hickman.

With starting tailback Cornelius Allen out with an injury andWilliams hobbled by a sprained ankle, the Panthers rushed 27 timesfor just 30 yards against the stingy Tiger defense.

Williams was 2-of-12 passing for 24 yards. Conversely, NortheastJones ran the ball 45 times for 241 yards. Jason Ford and Jackcombined to complete four passes in six attempts for 53 yards.

“Our kids have practiced hard for the last several weeks andtonight they seemed to be focused on what they were doing,”saidTiger head coach Randy Martin. “(Brookhaven) is from a gooddistrict and they’ve got a good program. We were fortunate thatwhat we were doing worked and we had some success early.”

The Tiger defense had success early and middle and late. StevePlummer and Jack each recorded sacks, while Daniel Davis, AlexRoss, Jamie Hales, Justin Wade, Eric Jefferson and Keith McBridealso shined in the defensive effort.

“The coaches did a great job of getting them prepared,” saidMartin.

Josh Anderson, Brian Mitchell and Perkins were the top defendersfor the Panthers.

With only 10 seniors on his roster, Hickman expects his youngPanthers to bounce back from the loss. “We wanted to go out on agood note,” said Hickman. “We’ll go back to work, we’ll get betterand we’ll try to improve on a 5-5 season.”