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Jackets score 3 unanswered TDs to put away Loyd Star Hornets

Though they be small in numbers, Friday night Enterprise was a mighty group of Yellow Jackets in their 22-8 win over Loyd Star on Harry Cole Field.

The Jackets (1-2) dressed out 20 players and that number was cut by one due to an injury to sophomore Lane Hoover in the first half.

There were more cheerleaders on the home sideline than available players for coach Trey Woodard and his staff of Josh Garrett and Wade Boyte.

In comparison, Loyd Star had 41 players dressed out in red and black on their sideline.

The fight shown by the Yellow Jackets was turned up from the start as the teams battled to a scoreless tie after the first 12 minutes.

Loyd Star (3-2) led 8-0 at halftime behind a touchdown that came off a near turnover.

Offensive lineman Lezeric Brothern grabbed up a fumble and raced 39 yards for a score.

Woodard and the home fans thought the far side official had blown the play dead as many of their players stopped moving when they heard a whistle.

The officials convened and ruled the score was good. Senior running back Eric Birch pounded in the 2-point conversion and Loyd Star led 8-0 with 2:55 remaining until halftime.

Both teams had a drive each in the first half that got inside their opponent’s 10-yard line but ended without scores.

EAC received the second half kickoff and put together an absolute meat grinder of a drive.

When the Jackets wanted to run between the tackles, they got rushes from quarterback Lawson Chemin or halfback Jordan Stephens.

For their outside runs they handed the ball off to junior Brayden Polk or senior Edrick McCray. Chemin splits snaps at QB with junior Matthew Burns who also can tuck his head for tough yards.

The home team pounded the ball behind their senior led offensive line as they marched down the field and ate 7:46 off the clock to start the third quarter.

Stephens ran in from the half-inch line to make the score 8-6 and the Enterprise fans packing the bleachers gave their team a lift that saw the whole Jacket sideline bouncing with energy.

That momentum carried over to the next defensive series as senior Michael Kees shot through the LS offensive line and made a tackle for a loss on first down.

Kees — a two-way starter like most all of his teammates — played like his hair was on fire defensively as he ran around Hornet blockers all night.

Junior linebacker Chris Walker then made another tackle in the LS backfield. On third and long it was a pair of Jackets — Joshua Paige and Chase White — who combined for another tackle for a loss.

That put Loyd Star at 3rd-and-Mallalieu Road with no choice but to attempt their second punt of the night.

Senior Trevor Grenn got a hand on the punt attempt and then a personal foul penalty further aided the Yellow Jackets as they took over on the Loyd Star 14-yard line.

On 4th-and-1 from the 5-yard line, Chemin dove ahead for the first down early in the fourth quarter.

Polk gave the Jackets their first lead of the game with 9:18 remaining when he outran the LS defense to the pylon. The two-point conversion was good as a scrambling Burns hit Polk with a short pass and the receiver did the rest as he ran over two defenders to get across the goal line.

Loyd Star and coach Brian Ford had two straight come from behind victories on the road, first winning at Ethel and then last week coming back from a deficit to win at Mize.

After the EAC go-ahead score, it looked like Loyd Star might make it three straight weeks of comebacks. They took over at the 50-yard line and a hard-running Birch quickly picked up a pair of first downs.

Two straight facemask penalties by EAC furthered the Loyd Star cause.

The referee crew was using pink flags in honor of October being breast cancer awareness month. The game saw more than its fair share of plays blown dead or called back when an official pulled and tossed a pink flag into the air. 

With Loyd Star knocking on the door of a go-ahead score they were flagged with a 15-yard personal foul that doused that momentum. On the following play Burns intercepted Loyd Star quarterback Julius Smith to end the LS threat.

A fumbled exchange nearly gave the ball right back to the Hornets, but Burns was able to dive in and secure possession for his team.

Long runs by McCray moved the Jackets offense quickly down the field and a 20-yard TD run by Stephens followed by another Burns conversion run provided the final score of the night with just over one-minute remaining.

That final TD set off a loud and long desired celebration on the Enterprise side of the field. The game is called The Sting Bowl, but it’s been a minute since the Yellow Jackets were the top wasp in the county.

The last win for EAC over Loyd Star was a 19-14 victory in 2002.

In the post-game huddle, the emotion was raw on the face of the large senior class that makes up half of the EAC roster.

Kees, who had gone out with an injury but back to finish the game while limping, was near tears. Senior center Chase White praised his teammates for the focus they’d shown in the week of practice leading up to the game.

McCray echoed that message.

“We had a great film session and we felt really locked in before the game,” said McCray. “Coach told us at halftime that if we came out and executed, we’d win the game. I’d come off and get a splash of water and be ready to get right back in — we all were.”

The win was the first over a Region 7-2A foe since the Jackets beat West Lincoln in 2015.

For Woodard, his team and their fans, the win was cathartic and gave them the type of feeling that money can’t buy.

“Our kids showed so much heart,” said Woodard. “They started to believe and then they played like we knew they were capable of — couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Loyd Star hosts Amite County next week while Enterprise travels to West Lincoln.