STEVENSON — North Jackson let its second win of the season slip through their hands Friday night at R.D. Hicks Stadium. The Chiefs lost a 13-point fourth quarter lead and fell to Class 4A Region 7 foe St. John Paul II by a score of 49-48. 

North Jackson got off to an early lead when quarterback Dalton Morris connected with Brady Cunningham down the sideline for a 77-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion attempt was good and North Jackson led 8-0. 

St. John Paul the second countered when Seth Brown threw his first touchdown of the night to Neil Schuetz, and the Falcons tied the game after a successful two-point conversion. Brown then took a quarterback keeper 88 yards to pay dirt on the Falcons’ next possession. The point after was good, and the Falcons led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter.

North Jackson answered quickly. Johnny Gilliam scored from 20 yards out early in the second quarter, and Abraham Castro tied the game with his extra point. The Falcons took back the lead when Brown found Sean Zerkle in the end zone after a nine-play drive. Zerkle then intercepted Carter Gass’ pass on the next possession. The Falcons capitalized immediately. Brown connected with Zerkle again, this time for a 70-yard touchdown. St. John Paul II led 29-15 with seven minutes to go until the half. Gass capped off North Jackson’s next drive with a 1-yard touchdown run set up by Gilliam’s 24-yard run down to the one-yard line. The Chiefs’ defense forced a three and out, and North Jackson had a chance to tie the game before halftime. North Jackson put together a drive that ended with a touchdown just before the half. The Chiefs ran a double pass, and Gass found Kyle Posey wide open in the end zone to tie the game at 29-all at halftime. 

The Falcons put together another long drive at the start of the third quarter, and Brown capped it off with a 12-yard touchdown run for a 35-29 lead. Cunningham returned the kickoff to midfield and the Chiefs tacked on fifteen more yards after a facemask penalty against the Falcons. K.J. Huckabee finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Cunningham then jumped in front of Brown’s pass on the next drive and took it down to the 25-yard line. Morris connected with Luke Johnson two plays later, and North Jackson led 42-35 after Castro’s extra point was blocked. The Falcons turned the ball over on downs, and North Jackson capitalized. Cunningham’s’ 41-yard reception set up Gilliam for a 2-yard touchdown run to extend the lead. North Jackson failed to convert the two-point attempt and led 48-35. The Falcons drove the ball inside the 10-yard line late in the third, but North Jackson stuffed Brown on a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line. The Chiefs got out from under the shadow of their own goal line before the third quarter ended. North Jackson took a 48-35 lead into the final quarter. 

North Jackson was forced to punt, and the Falcons took over at the 23 yard line. St. John Paul II converted three fourth down attempts on its next drive. One of those, Brown threw a jump ball that was tipped and caught by Zerkle for a 43-yard gain. Brown found Zerkle again on fourth down for a touchdown. The extra point cut the North Jackson lead to six. The Chiefs were forced to punt again, and the Falcons took over at midfield with five minutes left in the game. Brown led his team down the field again and connected with Nicholaus Stokes on fourth down for the game-tying score. The Falcons extra point was tipped but fell right over the crossbar. St. John Paul II had its first lead since 8:45 left in the third quarter. The Chiefs tried to put together a game-winning drive, but it was cut short when Morris’s pass was intercepted by Zerkle with 1:08 left in the game. 

Gilliam led North Jackson on offense with 189 yards rushing on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Morris and Gass added 112 and 105 yards through the air. Morris threw two touchdowns, and Gass threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Cunningham caught four passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. Huckabee added a touchdown for the Chiefs. Brown led his team to victory by completing 18 of his 27 pass attempts for 315 yards and five touchdowns. He added 120 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Kerkle caught seven passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns. 

“We tried to come up with a game plan,” said North Jackson head coach Chandler Tygard. “They have two really good players, and two really good players beat us.” 

Tygard said his team will be up for next week’s showdown with its archrival, Scottsboro, who comes in 3-1 on the season. 

“You don’t have to get them up for Scottsboro,” said Tygard. “That’s probably exactly what we need right now.” 

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