A-G grinds its way past Jaguars
By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector
Friday, September 8, 2017
FARMVILLE — While Farmville Central was scrambling personnel in an attempt to find offense Friday night, Ayden-Grifton did exactly what it always does.
The Chargers kept their head down, using a bruising run game to grind away at the Jaguars’ defense and ultimately leave Farmville with a 21-7 victory.
The win, A-G’s third straight in the series between county rivals, evened its record at 2-2. Farmville Central, which entered off consecutive wins, dropped to 2-2.
The matchup may have started with an electric play, as Ayden-Grifton running back Rashadeen Byrd took the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead, but it quickly boiled down into what can usually be expected from these two schools: a physical back-and-forth tilt that saw neither team score an offensive touchdown in the first half.
Grabbing a win was a welcome rebound for A-G, which was pummeled 58-6 last week at home by East Duplin.
“You take a beating like we did last week from a very good football team, and you have to give our kids credit for coming back ready to go,” Chargers coach Paul Cornwell said. “As the night went on, I thought we got better. I thought we played the hardest and the most together that we’ve played all year.”
The Chargers’ running game churned along in the first half behind the rushing duo of Ray Darden and Byrd, slowly chewing up yards but was unable to capitalize with points. Sophomore Micheal Webb provided a spark on the final possession of the first half, busting off three runs of 10-plus yards on a drive that stalled at the FC 34.
Webb made perhaps the game’s most crucial play on the first possession of the third quarter. The Jaguars attempted a halfback pass with Bryan Reid on third down, but receiver Quintaye Reid slipped and fell, leaving Webb all alone in the secondary to collect his first interception, which he returned to the Jags’ 29.
He cashed that in for a 1-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession to make it 14-0.
“It seemed like a punt to me,” Webb said, referring to the interception. “I was just like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is my first interception,’ and I didn’t see anybody rushing to me, so I just said, ‘Let me see what I can get after it.’ I picked up a couple of big yards.”
Farmville Central was forced to regroup after quarterback Jay Leavelle went down with an injured left hand on its first series. Leavelle had rushed twice for 23 yards prior to the injury, and once he left the contest, he took the Jaguars’ offensive production with him.
Unable to manufacture any drives with backup Zach Brady, FC coach Scott Gardner went to third-stringer Jaden Johnson, who was able to use his running ability to jolt the Jags to life. Trailing 14-0 in the third, Johnson broke off a 65-yard touchdown run on his second play from scrimmage to pull Farmville Central within a touchdown.
But the Jaguars were simply unable to overcome the early deficit. They drove into Ayden-Grifton territory once in the second half, but Webb deflected consecutive passes inside the 10-yard line to force FC to turn it over on downs.
“I think for what it’s worth, and I told them, I think they competed and I think they played very hard,” Gardner said. “I think we lost all our firepower off the bat, and we found a young kid that could run the ball in Jaden. We spread the field and we used the big horse (defensive end Keziah Everett) in the backfield a little bit. … I wasn’t disappointed. I was proud of them.”
Webb led A-G’s offense with 69 yards on 11 carries. Darden rushed for 52, and Byrd 42.
Johnson rushed eight times for 86 yards to lead the Jags.