A-J football team scores win in rain-delayed season opener
The Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team’s offense struggled, but the defense held on to preserve a 12-6 win over visiting West Frankfort in the 2016 season-opener for both teams Saturday, Aug. 27.
“I was pleased with our defensive effort only giving up six points,” A-J football coach Brett Detering said. “But our offense didn’t execute very well – we couldn’t run the football.”
The game was cancelled Friday night and moved to Saturday because of a thunderstorm that moved in right before game time.
“Cancelling a football game throws off the whole weekend,” Detering said. “I don’t care for having to reschedule.”
But it worked in A-J’s favor as the defense held the Redbirds to 143 yards rushing and 57 yards passing. The big plus for the defense was recovering three fumbles and getting a pass interception.
The Wildcat offense was limited to only 54 yards rushing. Dylan Fox led the way with 18 yards.
“Our offense is not made for long first downs and distances,” Detering said. “That aspect of our game has to be more effective.”
While the Wildcat running game was stymied, Detering said he was pleased with the passing attack.
“Both touchdowns were play action passes,” Detering said. “It was certainly a positive.”
First-year starting quarterback Osman was 3 of 7 passing for 59 yards and passed for both scores.
The Wildcat offense opened the game by driving the length of the field before losing the ball on a fumble at A-J’s own 5-yard line.
A-J’s Jayce Turner recovered a fumble to thwart the Redbirds’ ensuing opening drive.
After the Wildcats’ next drive stalled and they were forced to punt, A-J’s Jackson Boyd recovered a Redbird fumble.
Five plays later on a fourth and long yardage situation, Osman connected with Arieh Hart for a 30-yard TD strike.
The extra point kick failed and A-J had a 6-0 lead with 11:52 remaining until the half.
After both teams traded punts, Nick Jimenez recovered a West Frankfort fumble to set up the next Wildcat score.
Three plays later, Osman connected with Caleb Clover for a 21-yard TD strike. The extra point pass was intercepted and A-J led 12-0 with 4:11 remaining in the first half.
The opening kickoff was fumbled by A-J to begin the second half. The following Redbird drive stalled and they were forced to punt midfield.
On the Wildcats next drive they were forced to punt as well. Seven plays later, Redbird quarterback Brian Beery scored on a 7-0 yard run.
The extra point run failed and West Frankfort closed out the scoring with 1:00 remaining in the third quarter.
In the final quarter, A-J’s Noah Smith went down early with what appeared to be a neck injury. The game was halted for at least 15 minutes until an ambulance arrived and he was transported off the field.
Detering said Smith was checked out at the hospital and there was no apparent injury.
Trenton Turner sacked quarterback Beery to thwart a Redbird drive in the final quarter and force a punt.
A-J was then forced to punt on a fourth down on its next drive. Punter Boyd appeared to be roughed up on his punt, but only an off sides penalty was called against West Frankfort to still force a punt. A-J could have had a first down if the roughing the kicker punt would have been called.
On the ensuing play, a personal foul was then called against the Redbirds on the first play to help thwart their final drive.
The drive was halted when the Redbirds fell short of a first down on a fourth down situation.
With seconds remaining, quarterback Osman took a knee to run the clock out and preserve the win.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to go to work and grow from this and become a better football team,” Detering said. “We’ve certainly got some things to build on. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”