With a generous helping of smash-mouth football and a dash of razzle-dazzle, Jellico High School was able to snap a 12-game skid Friday night.
The Blue Devils (1-1 overall) came from behind in the second half at North Greene to defeat the Huskies, 14-8.
Running backs Ryan Morris and Freedom Scott pounded out most of Jellico’s yardage between the tackles, while newcomer Darius Marlow added an element of speed with a couple of shifty runs on reverses.
“I’m about as happy as I’ve ever been,” said Blue Devils coach Danny Oakes, whose team didn’t win a game last season.
“When you go through what we did last year, it’s tough.”
The losing streak dated back to the first week of November 2007.
During the first half of Friday’s game, consecutive loss number 13 appeared likely. Huskies quarterback Daniel Wedding connected with end Jeff O’Neil on a 17-yard touchdown pass play to put the first points on the scoreboard with 5:46 left in the opening quarter.
Matt Randolph’s two-point conversion run gave North Greene an 8-0 lead that stood until late in the third quarter.
Twice in the second quarter, Jellico had the ball inside the Huskies’ 30-yard line, but couldn’t score. North Greene defender John Lucas turned away the final first-half threat when he intercepted a Jellico pass at his own 10-yard line and returned it to the Huskies’ 32.
The Blue Devils stuck to the ground in the second half, a strategy that paid big dividends down the stretch.
“We showed a lot of guts in the second half,” said Oakes.
“We just made a decision that we were going to run it down their throat. Ryan Morris was big. Freedom Scott was big. The offensive linemen did their job in the second half.”
Morris got Jellico on the board with a 1-yard touchdown with 2:34 to go in the third quarter and also ran for a two-point conversion to force an 8-8 deadlock.
Marlow, who stars as point guard for the Blue Devils’ basketball team, took a reverse handoff early in the fourth quarter and made a beeline 41 yards to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 10:50 left. Ryan Irwin was tackled short of the end zone on a two-point try.
“Darius got some great blocks on the reverse,” said Oakes.
Jellico got the ball back with just over six minutes remaining but couldn’t get anything going. Morris quick-kicked out a running formation and pinned the Huskies deep in their own territory at the 3-yard line.
North Greene did manage to dig itself out of the hole, but saw its last chance at scoring fall by the wayside when Wedding’s jump ball to Mason Early was wrested away by Blue Devils defensive back Nathan Overton at the Jellico 25.
Jellico took possession, and Morris ran for a first down to keep the clock moving and preserve the victory. The Blue Devils will be able to rest on their laurels this week, as they have an open date before their Sept. 11 road trip to The King’s Academy.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a win,” Oakes.
“And when you’re trying to rebuild, the hardest (win) to get is the first one. No we can go play ball. Now we can go get better.”