North Jackson marches on.

The No. 5-ranked Chiefs dispatched the Curry Yellow Jackets 47-6 in their Class 4A high school football first-round matchup Friday night on a sloppy field at R.D. Hicks Stadium in Stevenson. North Jackson head coach Mark Rose said it was a “solid” win, but his team has room for improvement. 

“We came out and put the game away, and met our goal which was to advance,” Rose said.

North Jackson (11-0) hosts No. 3-ranked Hokes Bluff (10-1) in a second-round matchup next Friday night. 

The Chiefs set up that clash with its second all-time playoff win against Curry.

North Jackson won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Curry (5-6) tried an onside kick, but Cade Bellamy recovered the ball at the Chiefs’ 49-yard line. Curry stopped North Jackson on three plays, and the Chiefs were forced to punt. Punting has been a rarity for North Jackson this season, especially at the beginning of games. Andrew Darnell hit a good punt, and Curry took over at its own 12-yard line. It gained a first down on an offside penalty called on North Jackson on third down. North Jackson forced a Curry punt three plays later. North Jackson took possession at its own 44-yard line. After a run play that failed to gain and a dropped pass that probably would have resulted in a score, Curry looked to have the Chiefs stopped again. Then, Lee Witherspoon took the handoff 56 yards for a touchdown and 6-0 North Jackson lead 6-0 with 5:25 left to go in the first quarter. 

Curry mustered a lengthy drive into North Jackson territory, but the drive ended on fourth and short when Deshawn Ware stuffed Curry running back Tristan Jones behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 5 yards. Curry picked an unsportsmanlike penalty after the play, and North Jackson took over at the Yellow Jacket’s 49-yard line. Witherspoon had a 49-yard touchdown run called back on the first play of the drive because of a block in the back. That penalty only held off the inevitable for about three minutes. Witherspoon scored from 3 yards out, and Szameitat’s extra point was good and North Jackson led 13-0 with 5:23 left before the half.

That touchdown gave Witherspoon the AHSAA record for rushing touchdowns scored in a single season. He now has 53 on the season. A week ago, Witherspoon set the state record for most touchdowns in a season, a record that now stands at 59. 

North Jackson forced a three-and-out on Curry’s next offensive possession, and Jody Moore broke through the line and blocked the Curry punt. Tanner Woodall returned the blocked kick to the 15-yard line, giving North Jackson great field position to start their next drive. They wasted no time cashing in on that great field position. Witherspoon scored from the 2-yard line on the third play of the drive. Szameitat’s PAT was true, and North Jackson extended the lead to 20-0. The Chiefs forced another three-and-out on the following possession, and Curry was forced to punt again. This time, North Jackson took over at its own 42-yard line, and Witherspoon went 58 yards on the first play of the drive for his fourth score of the game. The PAT was good, and North Jackson led 27-0 at halftime.

Curry tried to put some pressure on the North Jackson defense to start the second half. A long run by Samuel Tidwell, and a personal foul penalty on the Chiefs put Curry on the 13-yard line. But two personal foul penalties on the Yellow Jackets forced them to punt once again. This time, Hunter Steele got a piece of the punt and North Jackson took over with good field position. Witherspoon scored on the first play of the following drive from 58 yards out, and the Chiefs led 34-0. 

Ware added two more touchdowns for North Jackson in the fourth quarter, and Jones got the Yellow Jackets on the board with a touchdown run of his own. 

Witherspoon led North Jackson on offense with 234 yards rushing on f15carries and five touchdowns. Ware added 100 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns. 

North Jackson held Curry to 165 yards of total offense, and the Chiefs blocked two punts. Jones led the Yellow Jackets on offense with 57 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Next week’s North Jackson-Hokes Bluff second-round game is a rematch a 2016 second round playoff game. Hokes Bluff defeated visiting North Jackson back then 24-14. 

“Our guys will be up to challenge like they have been all year,” Rose said. “We’re looking forward to that one, and it will be at home. We need everybody out here to support our team.”


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