By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Three weeks into the 2016 high school football season, Hokes Bluff was facing a dismal future. The Eagles were 0-3 and the postseason appeared to be out of reach.
What a difference hard work and a few weeks can make.
Fast forward to round two of the Class 4A state playoffs and the Eagles are flying high following a 24-14 victory over North Jackson last Friday (Nov. 11) at HBHS.
The Eagles (8-4) travel to Centre this week to face fellow Region 6 member Cherokee County in the quarterfinals. CCHS defeated Hokes Bluff 30-7 in Week 2 on Sept. 2.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Mike Robertson. “Our coaches have done a heck of a job. Our guys played super tonight against a strong team that has a great winning tradition.”
North Jackson and Hokes Bluff hooked up in an old fashioned defensive struggle last Friday. The visiting Chiefs from Stevenson fell behind early, 17-0 and then made a furious comeback behind the running of Omar Brown, who rushed for 109 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.
North Jackson (6-5) cut the Hokes Bluff lead to 17-14 late in the game before an Eagle score in the waning minutes put the game out of reach with 4:35 remaining.
Hokes Bluff (8-4) took an early 3-0 lead when Andrew Colley kicked a 25-yard field goal with 6:33 to go in the first quarter.
The Eagles increased their lead to 10-0 when they drove 32 yards with 3:48 to go in the same quarter. Darrian Meads scored on a 6-yard run.
Hokes Bluff scored once again with Landon Johnson doing the honors from five yards out to put the Eagles up 17-0 with 5:32 to go in the second quarter.
North Jackson finally got its offense rolling, driving 60 yards in six plays with 3:19 remaining in the opening half. Brown scored from 25 yards out and Isaiah Mateo booted the PAT to make the halftime score 17-7.
Brown scored on a 1-yard run with 7:39 to go in the game to cut the Hokes Bluff lead to 17-14, but Johnson’s 10-yard TD run with 4:35 remaining was the final nail in the coffin for the Stevenson squad.
The Eagles totaled 267 yards of offense on the night. Meads had 150 rushing yards on 29 carries, while Johnson was 6 of 13 passing for 101 yards. Johnson was held to 12 yards rushing on eight carries but scored two touchdowns.
North Jackson finished with 235 yards of total offense. The Chiefs rushed the ball 34 times for 142 yards and added 93 yards passing.
“We came together as a team tonight,” said Robertson. “Our seniors have shown a great deal of leadership. This game was big for everyone in the community, and everyone gives us great support.”