History Made Last Friday
The Jena Giants had a lot to play for this past Friday night. Even though the Giants earned a share of their fourth straight district title the week before against Caldwell, the Giants were competing for their third undefeated regular season in school history and first since 2017.
They were also playing for the #1 seed in the playoffs for the first time in school history and had a 17-game district winning streak on the line. The Giants would travel to a Buckeye Panther team that was having one of their best seasons in recent years.
Buckeye came into the game with much to play for as well. The Panthers were just outside of the top 16 of the Select Division II power rankings. With a win over Jena, the Panthers would definitely move into the top 16 and earn a home playoff game for the first round of the playoffs. With so much to play for you can understand why it was a packed house at Buckeye this Friday night.
The captains for the Giants would be seniors Zerrick Jones, Dylon Davis, Zach Barker and Boots Green. The Giants would win the toss and would defer to the second half.
Buckeye would strike first as they would use a trick play to confuse the Jena defense. Buckeye quarterback Adam Brodnax would throw a lateral to receiver Jesse Standlee who would then throw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Warthen to give Buckeye a 6-0 lead.
Buckeye would then recover the onside kick giving the ball back to the Panthers offense. Buckeye’s offense would use a fast-paced, hurry up, no-huddle offense that would go about as fast as an offense can go. Buckeye would go on a 7 play, 46-yard scoring drive to increase their lead to 14-0 before the Jena offense even had a possession.
On the next onside kick the Giants would recover and the offense would settle the game down and play at the Giants’ pace. The Giants would go on a 6 play 43-yard drive ending with a Zach Barker to Brayden Oakes 15-yard touchdown pass. Zerrick Jones would run in the 2-point conversion and the Giants would be within 6 at 14-8.
On Buckeye’s next possession Jena senior safety Hunter Spence would intercept a pass to give the ball back to the Giant offense. The Giants would quickly go 57 yards in 4 plays ending with a Cameron Koch 25-yard touchdown run. Zach Barker would run in the two-point conversion to give the Giants their first lead 16-14.
On Buckeye’s next possession, once again the Giants defense would force a turnover as this time, senior cornerback Demariyon Hammock would intercept a pass. The Giants would then go 41 yards in 5 plays ending with a Zerrick Jones 31-yard touchdown run to give the Giants a 22-14 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
Buckeye would answer on their next drive as running back Jim Burlew would score on an 11-yard touchdown run to make it a two-point game at 22-20.
The Giant offense would keep their foot on the gas as Cameron Koch would score his second touchdown of the game on a 5 yard run giving the Giants a 30-20 lead.
Give Buckeye credit as they did not give up as Adam Brodnax would find receiver Haidyn Boone for a 65-yard touch down pass to make it 30-26. The Giants would get a Zerrick Jones 30-yard touchdown run to make the score 38-26 with around a minute left in the 2nd quarter. Everyone assumed that would be the halftime score but once again Buckeye would move quickly as they would go 88 yards in 9 plays ending with a Brodnax to Ty Curtis 11-yard touchdown pass to make the score 38-32 at halftime.
Both teams would be unable to score on their opening drives of the second half but the Giants would strike first in the second half as on their second possession of the second half, Zach Barker would find Zy Hunter over the middle for an 80-yard touchdown pass to put the Giants up 46-32.
On Buckeye’s next drive, the Giants would get another interception as Demariyon Hammock would intercept his second pass of the game. The Giants would start to open up their lead as Zerrick Jones would score on a 26-yard touchdown run to increase the Giants lead to 52-32.
Buckeye would get a touchdown on their next drive but it would be their last score of the game. The Giants would continue to score as they got touchdown runs from Cameron Koch, Zy Hunter, and Zac Brown to make the final score 74-38.
The 74 points would break a Jena High School record for most points in a game. The Giants would also have another record broken as running back Zerrick Jones would break the record for most rushing yards in a career. Jones would finish the game with 19 carries for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Jones 200 yards in the game, he now has 4,305 rushing yards in his career.
Jena running back Cameron Koch also had a big game as he had his first career 100-yard rushing game as he finished with 14 carries for 111 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.
Jena defensive linemen Colton Sharp led the Giants with 16 tackles with 7 of them being solo tackles. Jena outside linebacker Dylon Davis also had 16 tackles in the game with 5 solo tackles.
With the win, the Giants completed their third 10-0 regular season in school history. Jena Head Coach Jay Roark won his 7th district championship and 4th in a row. The Giants’ district winning streak is now at 18 games.
The Giants also earned the #1 seed in the Division III Non-Select playoffs. This is the first time in school history that the Giants are the #1 seed in the playoffs. The Giants will get a bye in the 1st round of the playoffs and will await the winner of #17 Richwood at #16 Caldwell. The Giants will play their 2nd round game on Friday, November 17 at home.
This Friday night, we will have a special Jena Football radio show from 7-9 pm as we will recap the season with interviews with Jena head coach Jay Roark and players. You can hear the show starting at 7:00 pm on KJNA and if you are not in the listening area then you can tune in on the MIXLR app by searching for KJNAFM or go online at www.kjnafmjena.mixlr.com.