Golden Gophers Gash Jags 41-23
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In a region game that had playoff implications for both teams, the Hueytown Golden Gophers came to Northridge and handled business. Their 41-23 victory was a dominant team win with both the offense and the defense out performing the Jaguars in totality.
Things got started slowly as both defenses made strong statements. William McClain intercepted Gatorade Player of the Year Earl Woods on the Golden Gophers' opening drive, and Northridge had a quick three-and-out afterwards.
Northridge managed to block a Hueytown punt and take over at the Golden Gopher 30-yard line, but Rowdy Christensen was intercepted three plays later.
Woods finally got the scoring going after the turnover when he found wide receiver Maya Carter in the end zone from 28 yards out.
Northridge was set up with excellent field position on the ensuing drive and started on the Hueytown 35. They converted on a fourth and five attempt with a hard fought catch and run by Kollyn Shelnutt, but ended up settling for a field goal attempt that would end up yielding their only points of the half.
Following the field goal, Woods and Jakhael Rowser combined for 86 ground yards in a single drive. Woods capped it off with a 6-yard touchdown run, making the score 14-3 with 10:22 to play in the half.
Hueytown found themselves with the ball again quickly after its defense intercepted Christensen for the second time in the half. Artell Andrews logged a huge run for 33 yards to set the Golden Gophers up in "and goal" territory before punching it in himself.
Then, the drama began. Things had been getting chippy between the two teams throughout the half. That came to a boiling point when a Hueytown defender ripped Christensen's helmet off by the face mask and others continued to push him around and attempt to tackle him after the whistle. Naturally, the Jaguars rushed to its quarterback's defense and a fair amount of extracurriculars took place.
The result of that scuffle was a lot of flags and a Northridge first down. After two runs for no gain, Christensen rifled a pass to a wideout at the 3-yard line. With about 15 seconds left in the half, the Jags ran a halfback stretch to the right and failed to punch it in. Christensen did a good job of getting everyone set and had his team lined up, ready to go, and set for more than a second at the 5 second mark. However, an official inexplicably stood over the ball until the clock had ticked under two seconds.
After the ball was snapped, Christensen spiked it. The clock operator let the clock run, but the spike occurred with just under one second on the clock. After a zebra conference that felt like forever, it was declared that the half was over, much to the outrage of the home crowd.
After the intermission, the Northridge offense got right to work. They marched down the field methodically before Christensen capped the drive off with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Patten Curington.
The defense managed to get a stop after the score, but the Jaguar offense was stifled on the possession that followed it. Woods and Co. Would drive down the field after receiving the punt just inside Northridge territory and Rowser would punch it in.
On the ensuing Jaguar possession, highly sought-after recruit TJ Banks finally got into the mix offensively and rattled off a 20 yard touchdown run, only to have it called back by a holding call. That didn't faze the Jags as Christensen delivered another touchdown strike to Curington, this time from 29 yards out, making the score 28-17.
Things really got interesting on the following kickoff. Northridge attempted an onside kick and Hueytown was poised to foil the plan, but the Golden Gophers muffed the handling and the Jaguars ended up with the ball just inside Hueytown territory.
Tyson Whiteside made an impressive catch at the 1-yard line to set up his own end cap touchdown run. The Jaguars went for two, but failed to convert, making the score 28-23. This was the closest the game would get and the last point Northridge would score.
Woods and Rowser tag-teamed another ground and pound drive to chew clock before the two connected to score a touchdown through the air on third and goal from the 22-yard line. Woods would round out the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run on his team's next drive, bringing the game to its final score of 41-23.
After the game, Jaguar head coach Ryan Lolley was happy with his team's fight and determination, but said they made more mistakes than one can survive when playing an opponent of Hueytown's quality. He also offered praise to Woods and the rest of the Golden Gophers.
"I think everybody that's played him in his entire career has had a hard time with him," said Lolley. "Give them credit where it's due. They've got a great football team, played for a state championship last year, got the Gatorade Player of the Year at quarterback, really good running back, and a great defense. They have a great football team."
Northridge plays Brookwood next week at Billy Joe Young field and Hueytown welcomes Central High School.