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Friday September 18th, 2020 7:18PM

Panthers defense sparks road win over West Hall

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

OAKWOOD — Rich McWhorter felt his defense in 2019 was good enough to get them to the playoffs. Except for a wild five minute stretch in the first half Friday night against West Hall, the Jackson County defense showed it may be just as good in 2020.

The Panthers shutout the Spartans in the second half, and two third-quarter West Hall turnovers sparked a pair of touchdowns as Jackson County rallied for a 26-18 win at West Hall Stadium.

“Our defensive coaches made some adjustments in the second half and the kids came up and made some big plays,” McWhorter said. “Just real proud of how the whole team fought through some adversity.”

Meanwhile, the Jackson County offense, which struggled much of last season, showed signs throughout that they could be grasping the system that helped McWhorter’s Charlton County teams become perennial playoff powerhouses.

Junior quarterback Connor Bejin, making his first-ever varsity start, threw for one score and ran for another. Junior running back La'travious Ransom topped the 100-yard mark, including a 5-yard touchdown run. Senior Bo Reeves caught a 23-yard TD pass to open the scoring and added a 14-yard TD run in the third quarter to give the Panthers (1-0) the lead for good.

“First, our offensive line did a great job but we talked in the offseason of simplifying some things (on offense) and I think the guys have bought into that and they did some nice things,” McWhorter said.

The Panthers' defense was a wall early stopping West Hall (0-1) on its first two possessions. The second, after a stop on fourth down near midfield, resulted in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Bejin to Reeves for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

After the teams traded punts, a wild sequence over the next five minutes late in the first quarter and into the second saw the Spartans explode.

After another West Hall punt, Jackson County fumbled on its next play deep in its territory. But the Spartans could not capitalize as the Panthers’ JT Sosebee picked off Clayton Jenkins at the Panthers 1.

However, West Hall sacked Bejin in the end zone for a safety on the next play. The Panthers stopped the Spartans again on their next possession but a Jenkins punt pinned them at their 3. Two plays later the Spartans defense forced an intentional grounding for another safety.

This time, the Spartans took advantage of the short field on the ensuing possession as Josiah Henriques scampered 54-yards on the next play for an 11-7 lead. After they forced a Jackson County punt, Jenkins connected with Andrew Malin for a 36-yard TD pass to increase the Spartans’ lead to 18-7 with just under 9 minutes left in the half.

But the Jackson County defense clamped down from there.

Ransom’s 5-yard score, set up by a 20-yard run the play before, capped a long Panthers drive to answer the West Hall barrage to cut the lead to 18-13. The Jackson County defense then forced a Spartans fumble at midfield with just over a minute left in the half.

But after driving inside the Spartans 20, West Hall’s Sam Holcomb picked off Bejin in the end zone to send it to the half.

The Spartans got the opening kickoff of the second half but the Panthers forced a West Hall fumble on the opening play. The Panthers needed just two plays as Reeves rolled around right end for a 14-yard score to reclaim the lead for the Panthers, 20-18.

The Spartans were making progress on their second possession but another fumble cut the drive short at the Panthers 41. Bejin eventually capped the 59-yard drive with a 1-yard QB sneak on fourth down to push the lead to 26-18.

The Spartans had two good scoring chances in the final minutes but each time they were stopped on downs by Jackson County inside the Panthers’ 30.

“Any win is a big win but this team was ready to play somebody, anybody, so to come out here against a really good West Hall team on short notice and get a win is a big positive,” McWhorter said. “We have an off-week so we’ll just start getting ready for our next game in two weeks.”

Jenkins finished 13-of-28 for 208 yards for West Hall. Rodrigo Lopez had 6 catches for 95 yards and Malin finished with 3 receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. However, the Spartans rushing attack managed just 123 yards, most of those coming in the first half.

SCORING SUMMARY
First Quarter
J -- Reeves 23 pass from Bejin (Griswold kick) 7-0, 7:20
J -- Reeves 23 pass from Bejin (Griswold kick) 7-0, 7:20
W -- Safety, 7-2 0:51

Second Quarter
W -- Safety, 7-4 11:09
W -- Josiah Henriques 54 run (Lopez kick) 11-7, 10:53
W -- Andrew Malin 36 pass from Jenkins (Lopez kick) 18-7, 8:42
J -- Ransom 5 run (pass fail) 18-13, 2:27

Third Quarter
J -- Reeves 14 run (Griswold kick) 20-18, 10:25
J -- Bejin 1 run (run failed) 26-18, 0:29

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Jackson County football, West Hall football
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