J’ville plays first game in new stadium

by Arron Swink Contributing Sports Writer

The Jacksonville Fightin’ Indians hoped to open the new Tomato Bowl era in style last Friday night. The Carthage Bulldogs didn’t seem to get the memo, however, as last year’s Class 4A Division I state semifinalists ran roughshod over the Tribe en route to a 48-0 victory to dampen the opening night festivities.

After an approximate one hour lightning delay, Jacksonville would take position first but struggle to get anything going against the vaunted Dawgs defense. Junior QB Patrick Clater, in his first varsity start for Jacksonville, was intercepted at his own 22-yard line on only the second play from scrimmage.

The Tribe defense would pick up their signal caller on the ensuing drive by forcing three straight incompletions before CHS head coach Scott Surratt gambled on fourth down. Bulldog quarterback Tai Horton heaved a pass that came down in the arms of the Indians’ Tyrees Gibson, sending the home crowd into euphoria.

Unfortunately for the huge crowd on the home side, the tribe would be unable to parlay the turnover into points, as a three-and-out led to senior Chris Carpenter’s first punt of the season – a solid effort travelling 37 yards and staying away from dangerous Bulldog return man Keyonta Dixon.

Carthage broke the deadlock at the 7:39 mark of the first quarter when running back Mason Courtney plunged into the endzone from a yard out and Brennan Phillips added the extra point to make it 7-0.

That’s how the score would stand after one quarter of play in which Jacksonville showed signs of being able to hang with the Red and White juggernaut. The Dawgs found another gear in the second quarter, though, visiting the JHS endzone three times – a Jaden Thomas short dive at the 9:53 mark; a laser of a pass from Horton to Dixon at 5:08; and Courtney toting it in from 12 yards out with 55 seconds to go before the halftime buzzer. Phillips converted all three PATs to give the visitors firm control at 28-0 heading into the locker room.

The second half started just as the first had ended, as the Tribe struggled to slow down the precision-tuned attack of the men from Panola County. Despite surrendering three more touchdowns (with one PAT missed by Phillips) in the game – all in the third quarter – JHS did add highlights to the reel, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Indian defender Cam Fuller scooped up a Bulldog fumble late in the ballgame, pouncing on Carthage back Cartrell Fulton’s drop with just under five minutes to go in the contest.

Statistically, the game heavily favored the visitors, who racked up 497 yards of total offense to the Indians’ 67. The Bulldogs were able to dominate the stat line by running 61 plays to the Tribe’s 41. The Blue and Gold were able to win the turnover battle against the potent Dawg offense – scooping up two fumbles and grabbing an interception. Jacksonville had no fumbles on the night and Clater had only one interception.

Friday night the Indians look to get into the win column for the first time this season as they head to Palestine to renew the Highway 79 Rivalry with the Wildcats. The Wildcats dropped a 46-27 decision in their opener against Waco Connally.

Indian fans will be able to listen to all the action by logging onto JHS-Sports.com for live-streaming audio coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m. with kickoff from Wildcat Stadium set for 7:30 p.m.