11/8/2017 4:28:00 AM FOOTBALL: 76ers pull away in second half for 32-7 win against Jackson
Jackson’s Brice Graham rushed for a career-high 119 yards on 28 carries against Columbus Independence in a Division III, Region 11 playoff game on Friday night. The Ironmen lost 32-7 to wrap-up their 2017 season. (Photo By Red Thompson, Jr.)
COLUMBUS - In three of the last four seasons, the Jackson Ironmen worked their way into the football playoffs. Two of those seasons (2014, 2015), they walked off the field with a first-round victory.
On Friday, that streak came to an end.
The seventh-seeded Ironmen were halted by No. 2 Columbus Independence 32-7 in a Region 11 quarterfinal in Division III.
"I'm so proud of our kids," said Jackson head coach Andy Hall after the game. "We came out tonight and played with a lot of bullets missing from our gun, but we came out fighting and played it out to the bitter end."
The Ironmen (8-3) were without two starters and key playmakers, Blake McCoy and Reid Evans on offense Friday. Both suffered season-ending injuries, as Evans was lost after suffering a broken leg in week seven, while McCoy injured his ACL in the final week of the season against Chillicothe.
Jackson also had three starters on special teams out for the game on Friday, while defensive lineman Steven Lyon (knee) played, but on a limited basis.
The Ironmen's leading tackler, linebacker Matt Humphreys left the game in the first quarter after injuring his knee.
Jackson managed only 221 yards of offense, as more than half of those yards came from Brice Graham, who rushed for 119 yards on 28 carries and contributed one reception for 12 yards to lead the Ironmen.
Quarterback Jared Icenhower completed 4 of 9 passes for 57 yards and ran for 16 yards with one touchdown. That came with 5:01 left in the game on a 9-yard scoring run to cap an 8-play, 69-yard drive and cut the lead to 26-7.
However, Independence and its speed on defense was suffocating and the 76ers were able to limit Jackson's offense all night.
"They (Independence) are so fast that we couldn't get outside and we didn't have the time to throw because of their quickness," said Hall.
The defense didn't have one of their better games of the season, allowing Independence (9-2) to move the ball in big chunks, especially in the second half, as they compiled 465 yards.
The Ironmen only trailed 6-0 at halftime, but the 76ers scored four times in the second half to pull away.
Independence quarterback Kionte Blow completed 8 of 13 passes for 153 yards and ran for a score, which came on a 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter to open the scoring.
Deleron McCarrell had a pair of touchdown grabs for the 76ers. His first was on a 46-yard touchdown catch to put Independence up 20-0 with 6:29 left of the third quarter.
The score was originally nullified due to an illegal formation penalty. But Independence head coach Maurice Douglas pleaded his case and after a conference by the officials, the penalty flag was picked up and the touchdown was awarded.
"The officials made the right decision, picking up the flag," said Hall.
Blow also threw a 47-yard scoring pass to McCarrell with 3-minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
McCarrell finished with four receptions for 105 yards, while Drew Collins had three catches for 39 yards and Jalen Moore had one for nine.
Demontae Taylor, who had 253 yards rushing on 21 carries led Independence. That included his 67-yard touchdown run on a fake punt in the third quarter.
The Ironmen, however, seemed ready for some type of fake, but Taylor used his elusiveness and speed to breakaway for the score.
He also had a 46-yard touchdown run that put the 76ers up 26-0 midway in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Coach Hall took the time to salute his 15 seniors, who played their final game at Jackson.
"This class has had outstanding success through the ranks and they were on teams which made the playoffs during three of their four years on varsity," he said. "They were also on the final SEOAL championship team as juniors."