JENA BEATS AMITE – HOSTS UNION IN SEMIFINALS FRIDAY
Jena’s Revenge Tour Continues
Third Time’s The Charm As Giants Advance to Semifinals
The Jena Giants did something this past week that is every kid’s dream that has ever played high school football: To play a game the week of Thanksgiving.
The #1 Jena Giants had practice this past week as they prepared to take on the #8 Amite Warriors in the quarterfinal round of the Division III non-select playoffs. This would be the 3rd time in school history that the Giants’ football team has made it this far in the playoffs. Coming into the game though the Giants had never won a quarterfinal game. Amite on the other hand seems to always be in the quarterfinal round as the Warriors were playing in the quarterfinals for the 12th straight year. The Warriors are one of the best football programs in the state of Louisiana as they have won the state championship six times in their history with the most recent championship coming in 2021. Last season, these two teams met in the 2nd round of the playoffs as the #10 Jena Giants traveled to the #7 Amite Warriors. Amite easily defeated Jena 46-12 and made it to the semifinal round where they lost at Union Parish.
The Giants’ seniors made it their mission this season to defeat the four teams that defeated them to start the season last year. The Giants accomplished that goal starting the season 4-0 to get revenge on those teams. The Giants though would have one more team that they would need to get revenge for losing last year and that would be the Amite Warriors. It would be a packed house in Guy Campbell Memorial Stadium as the place was rocking from the opening kick. The captains for the Giants were seniors Zerrick Jones, Dylon Davis, Zach Barker and Boots Green.
For the first time in a long time the Giants did not win the toss. Amite would win the toss and would defer to the 2nd half. So, the Giants would get the ball first. Amite would force Jena into a three and out on their first drive as the Giants would have to punt. There would seem to be a nervous energy in the air to start the game as fans were waiting on someone to make the first big play. Jena would make the first big play as Amite would have fourth down and short situation deep in their own territory. The Giant defense would stand tall and would get the stop giving the Giants’ offense excellent field position at the Amite 30-yard line. One play later, Zerrick Jones would burst through the line and into the secondary as he would score on a 30-yard touchdown run to give the Giants a 6-0 lead.
Amite would answer right back though as they would go on an impressive 13 play, 71-yard drive ending with a Christian Smith 1 yard touchdown run to give Amite a 7-6 lead. This veteran group of Jena Giants have been so solid all year as there has never been a moment where they have panicked. Any time a team has scored on them it seems like they have always answered with a big scoring drive. This time would be no different as the Giants would go on an 8 play, 56yard drive ending with a Cameron Koch 2-yard touchdown run. Zerrick Jones would run in the 2-point conversion to give the Giants a 14-7 lead late in the 1st quarter.
The Jena defense would force a three and out by Amite on their next drive. The Giants’ offense would look to extend their lead as they would go on a 5 play, 73-yard scoring drive. The Giants would face a third and long and with everyone expecting a pass, the Giants would run a halfback draw with running back Zerrick Jones. Jones would run 61 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Giants a 20-7 lead. Zach Barker would find Zy Hunter in the end zone for the 2-point conversion to give the Giants a 22-7 lead.
The Giants’ defense would force a turnover on downs and would recover a fumble on the next two Amite possessions. The Giants would move the ball deep into Amite territory near the end of the first half and would attempt a couple of passes near the end zone but would run out of time as the Giants would take a 22-7 lead into the half.
In the 2nd half, the Jena defense would completely shut down the Amite offense. It seemed like every time the Amite quarterback dropped back to pass, he was running for his life. Just in the second half, Colton Sharp and Zy Hunter would both have two sacks each in the half. Amite would have the ball three times in the second half. The Giants’ defense would force a punt, a turnover on downs and would get a Demariyon Hammock interception. This would be Hammock’s 7th interception on the season. The Giant defense would allow Amite only 7 yards in entire second half.
The Giants would add one more touchdown in the fourth quarter as Zerrick Jones would score his third touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run. Zach Barker would find Zadrien Cooper in the back of the end zone as Cooper would make and excellent diving catch for the 2-point conversion to give the Giants a 30-7 lead.
The Giants would go on to win the game 30-7 to advance to the semifinal round for the first time in school history.
Zerrick Jones would finish the game with 24 carries for 212 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Zy Hunter would have 3 big receptions for 40 yards that would extend drives.
The Giants’ defense held Amite to 126 total yards in the game. Colton Sharp would have an excellent game as he finished with 8 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss. Triston McLendon would lead the Giants with 9 tackles in the game. Demariyon Hammock and the Jena secondary played great all night covering some fast receivers. Hammock finished with 5 tackles, 1 interception and 2 passes defensed.
The Giants will now do something that they have never done and that is play a semifinal game. The Giants will face a familiar foe as the #4 Union Parish Farmers will come to town. This is the 5th straight season the Farmers have made the semifinal round. Union Parish ended the Giants’ season in the 2nd round in 2018 and 2021. This group of JHS seniors were sophomores in 2021 and remember that defeat well, so in a way, the revenge tour continues.
Both the 2018 and 2021 matchups were in Farmerville, but this time, Union will have to travel to Jena. If you thought it was a packed house this past Friday then get ready as it shouldn’t be an empty seat in the house this Friday night.
Kickoff will be at 7:00. Get there early to get a seat and be loud. Giants fans, you did a great job this past Friday night as it was obvious Amite was not used to playing in that environment. We need you to be even louder this Friday night.
If you can’t make it to the game then you can tune in on 102.7 KJNA to hear all the live action starting at 6:00 with the pregame show. If you are not in the listening area then you can download the MIXLR app and search for KJNAFM or go online at www.kjnafmjena.mixlr.com.