After Panthers take lead, Mathews score 44 straight to end Charles City’s season
Up by four with 9:38 remaining in the second quarter, Charles City’s Panthers felt like they were in firm control of Friday night’s contest against the visiting Mathews Blue Devils. But when senior leader Ha’Ji Jackson exited the contest, a snowball effect of a downward trend followed the hosts.
Mathews’ defense held the Panthers to only one additional score as they reeled off 44 consecutive points in a 57-20 blowout win over the Panthers, ruining Senior Night festivities for the hosts.
On the first play of the game, Mathews’ stripped Jackson of the ball, recovering it near midfield. After the visitors marched down to the one, two consecutive penalties pushed the Blue Devils back to their own 16. But the distance meant nothing as Mathews’ quarterback Chance Spencer called his own number for a 16-yard touchdown run.
But Jackson made amends for his earlier miscue. Four consecutive handoffs racked up 47 yards on the ground. With Jackson drawing most of the attention, freshman quarterback Tayvion Harris connected with senior wide receiver Leo Charity on a 22-yard toss to bring the hosts back within one (7-6).
Charles City’s James Jones recovered a fumble on the opening drive of the second quarter for hosts, setting up position near midfield. From there, Jackson toted the ball near the home sideline from 30 yards out to give the Panthers their only lead of the night (12-7).
But Charles City’s workhorse Jackson saw his night come to an unfortunate end. With Charles City punting, Jackson dove and made a tackle, breaking his wrist in the process and ending his night with 115 rushing yards in only a quarter-and-a-half in play. With the senior out, Mathews offense rolled immediately. Spencer scrambled from 27 yards for a score a few plays later. On the Blue Devils next drive, running back Jovan Johnson sped 74 yards down Mathews’ sideline to provide the visitors a 27-12 halftime lead.
Things didn’t fair any better after the halftime intermission. On the opening kickoff by the Panthers, Justin Ashberry fielded the ball from the 43-yard line and returned it untouched into the end zone. Mathews accumulated 24 more points before Charles City senior lineman, now lined up at backfield, carried the ball in from one-yard out for a touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion. But another kickoff return for a touchdown by the guests iced the contest for the visitors and ended Charles City’s season at 1-6.
After the contest, Charles City head coach Sherod Jones talked about his young team needing through adversity when situations take an unfortunate turn.
“Tonight was similar to last week,” he said, pointing to an injury suffered by starting quarterback Keondre Barnes that ended his season. “We were in the game up to that point and when that injury happened, the boys just stopped playing.
“They know that Ha’Ji [Jackson] is an emotional leader and our go to guy, but they have to have that next man up mentality,” Jones continued. “We have the talent, but the guys have to believe in themselves just as much as the coaching staff and the people in the stands do.”
Jones then commented on the conclusion of his first season head coach and the return of the football program after not fielding one last year.
“I told the boys at practice that this season is about growth,” he said. “When you have half your roster full of freshmen, you’re going to make mistakes.
“The biggest thing is to learn from those mistakes and get better,” Jones added. “We made it through this year, and we have big plans for the future. We’re going to work hard in the offseason, and we want more players to come up and help this program grow.”
The Panthers will lose six players this year, including Jackson and Charity. But with a young nucleus, Jones had one thing left to add.
“This is just a start for us and we are going to make some noise in the years to come,” the head coach concluded.