Defense, freshman RB pace Tigers to first state title

By Maurice Patton

COOKEVILLE – Kenny Morson promised old-school football, and his Fayetteville Tigers provided it Friday – repelling South Pittsburg with a goal-line stand on the game’s opening possession, rushing for 274 yards and stopping the Pirates from 21 yards out on the final play to seal a 20-14 victory in the BlueCross Bowl Class 1A finals at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

“There’s no frills about us. We’re going to line up and try to go toe-to-toe with you,” Morson said after the Tigers (13-2) got 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns from freshman running back K.J. Johnson. “You’ve got to stop the run, you’ve got to be able to run the football and be good on special teams.

“Things worked out for us.”

South Pittsburg (13-2) appeared to have the young Tigers in trouble early, with a face mask penalty tacked onto the kickoff return setting the Pirates up near midfield. From there, they drove down to the 1-yard line before Mr. Football finalist Hunter Frame was tackled for a loss of a yard on third down and Deandre Kelley was unable to get into the end zone on the next play.

“Our defense has had I can’t tell you how many goal-line stands throughout the year,” Morson said. “That one, against a South Pittsburg team with those talented athletes, just said – we felt like that said we were supposed to be here, we’ve arrived.

“Everybody told our kids, across the whole state, you can’t beat this bunch. We looked at ‘em on film, we knew they were talented top to bottom. We knew we were young. We just needed to get here and see where we stacked up.”

On their third possession – set up by Frame’s interception of a Samuel Holdmeyer pass in the red zone – the Pirates final scored on a Kelley 3-yard run just before the end of the opening period.

Fayetteville had an answer, as Jackson broke loose for 47 yards, Aljarea Jackson added a 19-yarder and Holdmeyer threw 6 yards to Calvin Hughes in the end zone. An Ardell Allen III reception made it an 8-7 game at the 9:45 mark of the second quarter.

Fayetteville freshman K.J. Johnson was named Most Valuable Player of the BlueCross Bowl Class 1A state championship game Friday after rushing for 210-yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 20-14 win over South Pittsburg. (Courtesy photo by Jason Goode)

Just before halftime, the Region 5-1A champions extended the lead on a 14-play, 77-yard drive that saw Jackson – a 5-8, 160-pound freshman – carry 10 times for 58 yards, including a 3-yarder into the end zone.

“My linemen did a heck of a job blocking for me. They got me the yards,” said Jackson, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. “Our coaches put in a great game plan for us, and we executed it. My linemen did what they were supposed to do, I did what I was supposed to do.”

South Pittsburg tied the game at 14 with five seconds remaining in the third quarter on a Brayden Sanders 1-yard run, but Jackson’s 29-yard run with three minutes to play made it a six-point game and the Tiger defense stood up down the stretch.

“Our defense is tremendously good,” Jackson said. “I really think they need to get recognized.”

Fayetteville held South Pittsburg to 256 total yards.

“I’ve got great respect for Coach (Vic) Grider, his program, his staff, his kids,” Morson said. “They’re a phenomenal, class organization. For us to pull this off is phenomenal for our kids and our community.”

And Jackson was a huge part of that.

“He’s a special young man,” Morson said. “We know he’s a Division I (prospect). Is he Power 5? We don’t know just yet. He’s got some growing to do, size-wise, but this oughta get him noticed all across this country.

“He’s over there (on the sideline) beating his chest, ‘give me the ball’. A freshman with that mentality – give it to him and see what happens. He’s mature beyond his age, and we rode that horse out the door.”

BlueCross Bowl, Class 1A
Fayetteville 20, South Pittsburg 14

S 7 0 7 0 – 14
F 0 14 0 6 — 20

S – Deandre Kelley 3 run (0:55), Cooper Keown kick
F – Calvin Hughes 6 pass from Samuel Holdmeyer (9:45), Ardell
Allen III pass from Holdmeyer
F – K.J. Jackson 3 run (0:55), pass failed
S – Brayden Sanders 1 run (0:05), Keown kick
F – Jackson 29 run (3:08), run failed
First Downs1714
Passing Yards8942
South Pittsburg – Hunter Frame 23-94, Deandre Kelley 13-67,
Brayden Sanders 4-11
Fayetteville – K.J. Jackson 30-210, Aljarea Johnson 5-34,
Jaterious Derrick 3-32, Samuel Holdmayer 1-(-2)
South Pittsburg – Brayden Sanders 8-13-1, 89, Team 0-1-0, 0
Fayetteville – Samuel Holdmeyer 6-8-1, 42
South Pittsburg – Reginald Hunter 5-63, Jackson Lewis 2-19,
Coby Cooper 1-7
Fayetteville – Corian Cash 2-19, Calvin Hughes 2-8, K.J.
Jackson 1-12, Dalton Chriss 1-3

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