Natchez High defense stifles Jefferson County

Published 12:35 am Saturday, August 29, 2015

Natchez High School’s Dalvion Jackson tackles Jefferson County High School’s Dykevis Ford by the jersey. Natchez won the game 26-6. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez High School’s Dalvion Jackson tackles Jefferson County High School’s Dykevis Ford by the jersey. Natchez won the game 26-6. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — After allowing 491 yards in the season opener against Wilkinson County, the Natchez High defense came out with a chip on its shoulders, limiting Jefferson County to 152 total yards in a 26-6 victory.

For a senior leader like Dalvion Jackson, the performance against Wilkinson County was painful to watch, as he was helpless because of an injury. The linebacker sat out against Wilkinson County, nursing a shoulder injury, and couldn’t wait to get back on the field Friday for a game against a big rival.

“It was very hard for me to sit there and watch that,” Jackson said. “I just had it in my mind to come back and help this team. I turned it on.”

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Jackson helped his team by constantly wreaking havoc in the backfield, pressuring Jefferson County quarterback James Claiborne and leading the team in tackles. Jackson had a lot of help from the other senior defensive leader in Keenan Johnson, who forced two fumbles and had back-to-back sacks on a series in the second quarter.

“We had a chip on our shoulders tonight,” Johnson said.

The Bulldogs came out of the gate in rhythm offensively. Quarterback Chris Scott found Malik Byrd for a 58-yard touchdown strike on the third play of the game, giving Natchez a 7-0 lead after Shamarra Grover kicked the extra point. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Bulldogs rode running back Tydarrius Terrell down the field, before Ty’Anthony Beverly punched it in from five yards out. On the ensuing defensive possession, Tommie Wells recovered a fumble on the Natchez 32-yard line, broke several tackles and returned the ball all the way to the Jefferson County 11-yard line. Two plays later, Terrell scampered in to give Natchez a 20-0 lead with a minute left to play in the quarter.

“That’s the thing we wanted to do,” Natchez head coach Henry Garner said. “I talked to the guys before we came out and said, ‘We have to jump on them early and establish that momentum.’”

The Tigers failed to sustain positive drives throughout the game. Whenever the Tigers threatened, a penalty, a miscue or one of their three turnovers prevented Jefferson County from capitalizing on scoring opportunities. Head coach James Herrington said his players fought hard, but he failed to get them ready for the contest.

“When we got opportunities to punch it in and get momentum on our side, we had plays that killed momentum,” Herrington said. “Momentum means a lot in football games.”

Following an interception by Scott late in the first half, Jefferson County finally took advantage of a short field with a two-yard Claiborne touchdown 10 seconds before the half to reduce the lead to 20-6. However, that would prove to be the closest the Tigers would get, as the Bulldogs defense were relentless in the second half.

Garner said the intensity shown, especially on defense, was something missing in the season opener, and he looks for his team to continue to bring that passion moving forward.

“This is a different team from last week,” Garner said. “I saw it around Wednesday afternoon, and it continued through Thursday. It’s just a totally different ball club. The only thing I’m really bothered about was the mental mistakes. We’ll correct that.”

The Bulldogs committed 13 penalties for 97 yards, while the Tigers committed 10 for 60 yards.

Terrell led all players with 106 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, scoring his second touchdown in the third quarter.

Scott completed 5-of-10 for 91 yards and had two interceptions, one coming on a Hail Mary attempt just before the half.

Following the win, (1-1) Natchez will have an open week, while (1-1) Jefferson County will host Morton at 7 p.m. Friday.