Jefferson County loses lead late, falls to Murrah 20-14 in clash of unbeatens

Published 10:06 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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JACKSON — Jefferson County High School head coach Roderick Holmes was hoping his Tigers would get off to a fast start last Thursday night against a team from a much bigger classification in Murrah High School.

Instead, in a battle of undefeated teams, the MHSAA Class 7A Mustangs scored first and then scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to rally for a 20-14 win over the Class 3A Tigers at legendary Hughes Field.

Holmes was disappointed that once again the Tigers could not get on the scoreboard first and ended up playing from behind after Murrah (4-0) jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.

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“It was a good game. It was a close game. But we knew coming in if it were a close game, it could go either way,” Holmes said. “The last time I talked with y’all, I said we needed to get off to a fast start. But the offense wasn’t as productive as it had been the last two weeks.”

However, Holmes had to be thrilled that Jefferson County didn’t take long to recover from that sluggish start. The Tigers scored a touchdown and was successful on the two-point conversion attempt for an 8-6 lead.

It remained that way until the fourth quarter as both teams’ defenses continued to step with big plays. But it seemed like the Mustangs came up with biggest plays when they needed to — especially late in the game.

“It was a defensive battle. Defense, our defense had them on the field too long and that came back to hurt us toward the end of the game,” Holmes said. “Offensively, we could move the ball, but every time we did, we would have something like a penalty or other self-inflicting wounds.”

Tigers senior quarterback Jabari Watson threw his first two interceptions of the season. One of them was in the red zone. Holmes said that turnover occurred either late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter.

And with Jefferson County’s defense continuing to wear down, Murrah hit a big pass play for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs put up 14 points in that stanza while holding the Tigers to just six points. Holmes said the Tigers were moving, but that drive ended with a sack of Watson.

“You want to win all your games, but you can have a timely loss. We’ll use this as fuel for our next game against Natchez High. This is something everyone’s been waiting on since the beginning of the season,” Holmes said. “We can’t have any lapses in practice. We had a short week this week, and I can’t tell you I’m pleased with how that went.”

Holmes added that offensively, he was a little too conservative with the play-calling and that he should have opened up the playbook even more.

Jefferson County (3-1) plays host to Natchez High (0-3 heading into Friday night’s game at Ocean Springs High School) next Friday with kickoff at 7 p.m.