Fayette County head coach Mike Davis acknowledges that things haven’t gone well for his team this season.
At 0-8, the Tigers are still searching for their elusive first win. Injuries and youth have played a role in creating inconsistency and struggles. However, the one constant is the heart of the Tigers. Each week, Fayette has steadily improved and fought to the end.
On Friday night, the Tigers did just that.
After falling behind 24-7 to the Jonesboro Cardinals, it could’ve been easy to roll over. Instead, the Tigers kept fighting and made a game of it. They scored on back-to-back possessions to close the deficit to seven points with 2:28 remaining.
With the ball on deep in Cardinals territory, the Tigers had a chance. As the clock ticked away, so did Fayette’s opportunity. A late interception by Cardinals safety Walter Forte dashed any comeback hopes. Fayette fell 24-17, but showed that the future is bright with toughness and talent.
“I like the fact that even though we haven’t had the year we set out to have, these guys have not given up and they keep fighting no matter what,” Davis said. “One thing we talk to them about is as long as you have breath and are breathing, you keep fighting.”
Jonesboro started hot and jumped out to an early lead. They intercepted Tigers quarterback JeKobe Coleman on second drive of the game. The interception was returned 35-yards for a touchdown. Later, running back Jacques Thomas scored a 52-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals a 14-0 lead.
The Tigers responded behind a six-play, 46-yard scoring drive. Fayette fed running back Caleb Pressley and the senior responded with 38 yards in the series. His aggressiveness set up Fayette in the red zone. The Tigers capped the drive with a 14-yard touchdown as quarterback JeKobe Coleman found freshman Marc Stampley in the end zone. The first quarter ended as Jonesboro held on to a 14-7 lead.
“Caleb (Pressley) ran hard and our offensive line came off the ball hard,” Davis said. “Our quarterback did a good job. We just got to keep fighting and that is all we can do.”
In the second quarter, Jonesboro started to control the line of scrimmage. They moved the ball down the field with a mix of run and pass. Senior running back Kendaris Hillman was featured with many inside dive plays. He carried the Cardinals early with nine carries for 34 yards, prior to leaving the game with an injury.
The duo of Hillman and quarterback Tremir Alexis gave Fayette fits all night. After marching down to the 1-yard line, the Tigers did get a stop. Hillman fumbled and gave the ball back to Fayette.
The Tigers couldn’t cash in the turnover. They went three and out and punted it back to Jonesboro. The Cardinals took advantage as kicker Fernando Lobo connected on a 47-yard field goal. Jonesboro led 17-7 as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
“It is important for guys to be ready when their number is called,” Cardinals head coach De’Timothy Floyd said. “It is something that we try to preach into some of the guys.”
In the second half, Jonesboro continued to capitalize off Fayette’s mistakes. The Tigers had several self-inflicted penalties and that hurt them in the fourth quarter. Jonesboro once again cashed in with a nine-play drive that ended with Nazim Whitaker scoring a 1-yard touchdown.
With 10:04 left in the game, the Cardinals held a 24-7 lead. Fayette didn’t go away quietly as they rattled off 10 unanswered fourth quarter points. It started with a field goal and that was followed by a 2-yard Coleman rushing touchdown. The deficit closed to 24-17 as Fayette kicked off with 2:28 remaining.
The Tigers called for an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. Good fortune was on their side as the ball bounced right back to them. With the ball on the Cardinals 29-yard line, here was the chance to tie it up.
Unfortunately, Forte’s interception wiped out the opportunity. Coleman finished the night going 11-for-24 with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Jonesboro ran out the clock to win improve to 4-5. More importantly, the win moves them to 2-3 in Region- 3-AAAAA and into the last spot in the state playoff race. Next week, the Cardinals face pivotal matchup against McIntosh that could decide the No. 4 seed.
“I think it is big for the program and one of the goals the team set at the beginning of the year,” Cardinals head coach,” Floyd said. “We are in the good spot being one step closer to meeting that goal.”
Fayette remains on the road to face Whitewater. Both teams are looking for a win to close their season on a good note. Davis remains optimistic in his team. Despite being down six starters to injury, he is proud of the growth of his young squad.
Several players are making strides. Pressley finished with over 100 rushing yards and Stampley had three catches and a touchdown. On defense, freshman Justus Joseph made plays. As a result, Davis knows things will turn around.
“We are so young all over the place,” Davis said. “There have been a lot of struggles because of a lot of injuries. “If you look at us, we had injuries all year long and we haven’t been totally healthy…We just keep battling with the guys we got.”