Nearly two months have passed since Jellico High School last won a football game.
The leaves were still green and the late summer air was hot and humid when the Blue Devils went on the road to defeat North Greene, 14-8, on Aug. 28.
During the seven weeks that followed, Jellico lost six consecutive games by an average margin of 19. 5 points. The defense gave up a total of 177 points in those six games while the offense struggled to score 60.
So, when Jellico found itself leading 18-6 at halftime of Friday’s homecoming game against winless District 4-A rival Oakdale, there was reason to believe the losing streak could be broken.
The Blue Devils didn’t let up in the second half, and treated the hometown crowd to a 46-28 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might imply.
“It was a great game for us,” said Jellico coach Danny Oakes.
“We came out in the second half and took it too them. The offensive line played well and got downhill and moved the ball.
“We had a little lull there in the second quarter and turned the ball over, which led to their first touchdown. But it’s always good to get a win.”
Senior running back Ryan Morris tallied three touchdowns for the Blue Devils (1-5 district, 2-9 overall). However, it was receiver Darius Marlow, a converted basketball player that got them on the scoreboard first.
Marlow slipped behind the Oakdale defense and caught a 50-yard touchdown bomb from quarterback Devin Oakes for a 6-0 advantage with 6:54 remaining in the opening quarter. The point-after try failed.
The Blue Devils recovered a fumble at the Eagles’ 28-yard line to set up their next score. Three plays later, Morris plowed over Blake Redmon at the goal line on a 12-yard touchdown run with 4:43 to go that put Jellico up 12-0. Nathan Overton was tackled short of the end zone on a two-point try.
Oakdale’s Ryan Young ran for a first down to get his team into scoring position during the second quarter. The Eagles could get no closer, as they lost 20 yards on the next play and kept going backward.
The Eagles got another golden opportunity in the second quarter when they recovered a fumble at the Jellico 19. Young cashed in the mistake for a 3-yard touchdown run that cut the margin to 12-6. Oakdale quarterback Dexter Nelson attempted a two-point try off a faked PAT kick, but couldn’t get into the end zone.
Jellico came right back downfield to take an 18-6 lead at the half. Overton broke a long kickoff return just across midfield. A couple of minutes later, Morris ran four yards and vaulted over several defenders at the goal line to score a touchdown. Freedom Scott couldn’t get into the end zone on the two-point try.
The Blue Devils came out after halftime and dominated the third quarter. Jellico made scoring drives of 60 and 69 yards to take a commanding 32-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Tyler Brummett ran for gains of 20 and 11 yards to keep the first drive going. Scott imitated the earlier vault by Morris on a 5-yard touchdown run with 6:55 left.
Ricardo Goncalves, who missed a PAT kick in the first half, connected the second time to make it 25-6. Michael Douglas got the other touchdown during the third quarter on a 6-yard pass from Oakes with 1:43 to go.
Goncalves made good on the PAT kick.
Jellico’s second touchdown of the half was set up by a 50-yard pass play from Oakes to Marlow on third-and-long.
The Eagles made the final margin respectable with a 22-point blitz in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Turner scored all three 4th quarter touchdowns for Oakdale on runs of 39, 65 and 70 yards. He and Nelson also ran for two-point conversions.
Ryan Irwin had a 19-yard TD run for Jellico. Morris scored the final points for the Blue Devils on a 21-yard touchdown run with 2:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. Goncalves’ PAT kick made it 46-20.
Turner’s third touchdown came with 48 seconds left.
Morris finished the night with 126 yards rushing on 13 carries. Oakes had his best outing of the season at quarterback. He completed 9 of 17 passes for 165 yards. Marlow led the Blue Devils’ receiving corps with 114 yards on three catches.
Scott, a senior linebacker, continued to lead Jellico’s defense. He was credited with 16 tackles, including three for minus yardage. Scott is ranked fifth in the state in total tackles with 119 through nine games. Morris, who also plays linebacker, made six tackles and was in on four assists. Irwin had four tackles.
Jellico will host Oneida for its final game tomorrow (Fri.) night at 7:30 p.m.