The Mays Raiders knew what was in front of them if they wanted to play for a region championship, they had to find a way to beat region and state power Stephenson on the road Saturday night at Hallford Stadium in Clarkston, GA before they could think about Tucker next week.
“We’ve played Jarvis before and we know he’s got some tricks tonight,” veteran Stephenson head coach Ron Gartrell said prior to the game. Jarvis was 1-3 against Stephenson in his five seasons at ML King from 2005-2009 and was outscored 70-27 in those games with the only win in 2006.
After a rocky first possession that led to a punt and Stephenson scoring on an 18-yard touchdown run by Dallas Rivers for a 7-0 lead, they settled in and shutdown the Jaguars the remainder of the game. That run would be Rivers longest run of the game as he was bottled up by the Mays defense most of the night.
Mays would be forced to punt on their next possession but the punt hit a Jaguar in the back and Mays recovered at the Stephenson 44 and were in business. After five straight running plays the Raiders went to the air and Ayinde Russell found Tyshawn Brown for a 26-yard touchdown pass to pull within 7-6 after the missed extra point with 4:37 left in the opening frame.
Brown would strike again for Mays after the defense forced Stephenson to go three-and-out, Brown returned the punt 72 yards to the Stephenson 7 setting up Mays’ next score. Russell hit Julius Whitehead for a touchdown however Whitehead was flagged for illegal touching moving the Raiders back to the 23. On the next play Russell zipped in a 23-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Randercous Davis and Mays took a 13-7 lead after the successful extra point with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
“Offensively when we had to make plays they made plays, I’m just proud of those guys, they showed the type of football we are capable of playing,” Mays head coach Corey Jarvis said. “After the Arabia Mountian game we had truly been stressing special teams, special teams for us if you change field position when you have explosive guys like we have doing it on our kickoff and punt return units.”
From there the Mays defense held the fort down with standout play led by Natrez Patrick (Jr), Marquez Daniels (So.), Shiheem Rutherford (Jr), Roderick Tyler (Sr), Brandon Bradley (Sr), Jerome Smith (Sr) and Henry Whitherspoon (Sr). Mays would stop Stephenson on fourth and short on the Mays nine and again at the end of the half at the one to end a 15-play 97-yard drive in which Mays had 26 penalty yards including pass interference on fourth and goal from the two.
“Defensively I gotta take my hat of to Coach [Lee] Hannah and my defensive staff and all the guys on defense because they played their butts off, they played lights out. We are young at certain positions but they actually are good ballplayers and they showed tonight they can shutdown a good team,” Jarvis said about his teams defensive performance.
The second half featured a display of the punting units as the teams traded punts much of the half. Stephenson would find a way to score after a 54-yard punt was downed at the Mays one on their opening possession of the half. One play later Mays running back Romartis Bell was tackled in the endzone for a safety pulling Stephenson within four at 13-9 with 9:57 remaining in the third quarter.
Mays pinned Stephenson at their own one after a punt in the fourth quarter under six minutes but three plays later Jaguar quarterback Dewann Ford scrambled, was hit and fumbled at the 21 and Mays recovered it. Again Stephenson would have another chance after Mays could not add points and were turned over on downs with 3:03 however Stephenson was turned over on downs with 1:37 to go and Mays would run the clock leaving Stephenson (7-2; 6-2) with only 15 seconds where they failed on two Hail Mary attempts from their own 35.
Mays’defense was clearly the story of the the game as they played at another level and held SEC-bound running back Dallas Rivers under 100 yards rushing while not giving up backbreaking plays via the air and stopping Stephenson on several fourth down attempts. Yet the monkey remains on Stephenson’s back, what if they could have kicked field goals? The same goes for Mays as they missed an extra point and didn’t try a field goal late in the fourth quarter to pad their margin yet punted well enough to win.
“Our kids took the gameplan and the motto that we were going to learn how to finish. They’ve fought to the end all year even in the two losses. Were young but were so talented and we showed our age by the little stupid mistakes we made but if we play our butts off we are going to stay in the ballgame,” Jarvis added.
Mays (7-2; 7-1) enters their meeting with Georgia 5A top-ranked Tucker (9-0; 8-0) on Friday on a three game winning streak having lost by a combined four points on the season. Tucker and Mays will battle at 8pm at Lakewood Stadium for the Region 6-5A championship, the game time was changed from 5:30pm to 8pm EDT. Northside-Warner Robins had been ranked number one over Tucker in some polls but fell 28-18 to Warner Robins on Friday night.
Mays should be ranked in the Top 10 come next week while Tucker should be nationally ranked no matter what rankings mean.
“Yes it is, next Friday is where I wanted to be,” Jarvis stated. “Tucker is a great ballclub, very opportunistic, they make plays on special teams and they are fast on offense and defense, their speed is scary fast. I’m just glad we get an opportunity to play them for a region championship.”
In the end all Jarvis and Mays did was use good old school defense, no “tricks” seen all night.