By JOSH FRYE
J.U. Blacksher was knocked out of the AHSAA Class 2A state playoffs last Friday, November 15, suffering a 30-20 setback at the hands of powerful Reeltown High.
JUB secured the second-round matchup with a 38-30 win over Abbeville the previous week.
JUB received the kickoff to start the contest but was forced to punt away after a quick set of downs. The Rebels quickly drew first blood, scoring on a 50-yard run on their first offensive play of the game.
With Just over 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, Bulldogs quarterback K.D. Rabb had a pass picked off by a Reeltown defender. The pick set up a 14-yard scoring drive that put the Rebels up 14-0 with just under nine minutes left to play in the first half.
As the Bulldogs scrambled to find a points-producing drive, Reeltown came down with another interception that was returned for a touchdown. The PAT kick was blocked by JUB’s Jackson Reid, but the Rebels held a 20-0 advantage.
With just under seven minutes left in the half, Bulldogs quarterback K.D. Rabb connected with wide receiver J.T. Tucker on a 34-yard scoring strike, and Andrew Dawson’s extra-point kick cut JUB’s deficit to 20-7.
Blacksher’s Dorien Quarles kept the positive energy flowing, intercepting a pass on the Rebels first offensive play after the scoring strike.
With just over three minutes left in the half, the Bulldogs drove downfield on a series of passes and runs by JaDaniel “Bubba” Nettles, Tucker, Rabb and Quarles.
After 13 plays, Rabb punched into the endzone on a quarterback keeper with just 44 seconds left in the half. Dawson’s PAT kick fell just short, and the Bulldogs retired to the locker rooms trailing 20-13 at the half.
The third quarter was a defensive battle on both sides of the field. With 26.7 seconds left in the third quarter, the defensive efforts struck out as the Rebels came down with a disputed 39-yard reception. Much to the dismay of JUB’s coaches and fans, who thought the catch should have been ruled incomplete due to the receiver catching the ball on the ground, the catch was ruled a completion.
The controversial call set up a last-second scoring drive for the Rebels, and the Bulldogs ended the third quarter trailing 27-13.
With just over nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the home team closed the scoring gap when Rabb rushed in for a 4-yard score. Dawson tacked on the extra point, and the Bulldogs were within 7, at 27-20.
The JUB crowd and sideline fell silent as star wide receiver and defensive back, Tucker was injured while defending a potential Reeltown scoring pass.
While leaping over a fellow teammate while defending the pass, Tucker landed awkwardly on his lower back.
As Tucker lay on the field being attended to by trainers, the crowd in attendance fell silent. Tucker was aided off the field but returned on the next series.
“It looked worse than what it actually was,” JUB head coach Wes Sims said. “After evaluation, it was determined that Tucker’s spine was fine, and that the injury was to the side of his lower back. Even though the fall looked scary, Tucker was able to shake off the awkward landing and return to play. The fall scared all of us, including Tucker, and we were all happy that it wasn’t worse.”
With just over two minutes left to play, the Rebels lined up for a fourth down, 42-yard field goal attempt. The kick sailed through the uprights, marking the end of JUB’s state championship hopes.
“We didn’t play our best,” Sims said. “They have a good team and forced us to throw. Defensively, we were able to contain some of their key players, but they made plays when they needed to. We couldn’t run the ball when we needed to and just fell short.”
Other factors that helped contribute to the loss were the absence of key Bulldogs players who were out with injuries. Two-way lineman Kane Singleton was sidelined this week with a shoulder injury, while his brother, 6-1, 315-pound lineman Brock Singleton, was not in uniform for undisclosed reasons.
Though the loss was a disappointment, Sims said the team’s performance was more than credible.
“We have had a great year, and I am proud of my guys,” he said. “We overcame adversity and made a statement. We will lose some key guys next season and retain a good nucleus of kids. The younger guys will have to step up to the plate next season for us.”