After a heart-breaking loss in their much-anticipated first meeting with South Pittsburg (Tennessee), the North Jackson Chiefs did not let that defeat linger.
Instead, North Jackson was on the other end of a last-second game, scoring with 10 seconds left to post a pivotal 20-15 Class 4A Region 7 victory at Madison County last week.
“Really proud of our kids. We’ve played two really big rivals in the first five games and two tough losses, but our guys just went back to work and didn’t feel sorry for themselves. Our leaders did a good job of leading. All our guys did a great job of answering the bell,” said North Jackson head coach Joe Hollis, Jr. “We did not play our ‘A’ game, but our kids overcame a lot of adversity and played until the final whistle, kept fighting, kept grinding, and made big plays in all three phases at the right time. That speaks to how tough, mentally and physically, our kids are. Now our kids and coaches have put themselves in position to have the opportunity to be the No. 2 seed and host (a playoff game).”
North Jackson (3-2, 3-1) hosts Randolph (6-1, 3-1) in a critical region game Friday at 7 p.m. at R.D. Hicks Stadium in Stevenson.
The winner takes sole possession of second-place in the Class 4A Region 7 standings and has the inside track toward hosting a first-round playoff game.
“It’s (essentially) playoff Week 1,” Hollis said. “It’s going to be a fun game. Glad to get them at home at R.D. Hicks Stadium. We need everybody in Chief Nation to come out and support our kids and have that place rocking like it was the last (home) game.”
The game is also homecoming for North Jackson High School.
It’s the eighth meeting between North Jackson and Randolph. The Chiefs lead the series 6-1 and have won the last three meet North Jackson won last season’s matchup 43-24 in Huntsville in a game in which it recovered an AHSAA record four onside kicks.
Randolph is off to its best start in school history, posting wins in region play over St. John Paul II 34-6, New Hope 43-13 and Madison County 35-21 and non-region wins over Elkmont 48-7, Glencoe 35-0 and Westbrook Christian 35-0.
The Raiders, who are averaging 35.1 points per game while allowing just 12.7, suffered their first loss last week with a 42-16 region setback on the road against No. 2-ranked Madison Academy.
“They’re a really well-coached team,” Hollis said. “Defensively they have 11 guys flying to the football. Offensively, Coach (David) Lloyd has brought his offense from St. John Paul II over and they’ve bought in to it and are playing well. The quarterback (Andrew Hunter) is a dual-threat guy, really a great runner and everything he throws is catchable. He’s got a ton of game experience. He makes good reads and knows where to go with the football. He’s the key to their success.”