TUSCUMBIA — Deshler put an exclamation point on a stellar second half of the season Friday night.
The Tigers thumped North Jackson in a 56-31 victory that saw Deshler score seven times in the first half and win its sixth in a row after beginning the season with three losses in four games as Class 3A’s preseason second-ranked team.
“We didn’t start the way we wanted to, but I’m really, really proud of our guys for the way they finished this year out,” Deshler head coach John Mothershed said.
“I even made the comment earlier this season, ‘I may be a fool, but I think we’ve got a pretty good football team.’ The teams that we lost to we had a shot against. First was Russellville, then Lauderdale County and Madison Academy. We were knocking on the door in those losses, but I think the Brooks game was the big turning point. The little things at the end of the year have really built this team’s confidence level.”
The Tigers (7-3) scored on every first-half possession, beginning with the first of three Chandler Brown touchdowns on the opening possession. His 28-yard touchdown run capped a nine-play drive that included seven runs of five yards or more.
After North Jackson responded with its only touchdown of the first half, the rout began. Brown scored again on a 3-yard run, and three plays after after a long interception return gave Deshler a first-and-goal, Terrance Byrd barreled in from 4 yards out to give Deshler a 21-7 lead midway through the opening quarter. Byrd rushed six times for 104 yards, and Brown finished with 71 yards on nine carries.
On the ensuing kickoff, Deshler alertly caught North Jackson off guard and recovered a live ball at the Chiefs’ 25-yard line. On the next snap, Juakeem Fuqua ran 25 yards for Deshler’s third touchdown in a span of 1 minute, 50 seconds.
North Jackson’s next possession stalled at its own 40-yard line, and the Chiefs lined up in a field goal formation for a scrimmage kick, which serves the same purpose as a punt except in a different formation. AHSAA rules permit the scrimmage kick and for the kicking team to down the ball when it comes to rest, as long as it does not cross the goal line.
But Deshler’s Blake Rivera stood under the kick at the Deshler 10 and raced 90 yards for a score. Carson McGregory’s extra point brought the score to 35-7 with 1:56 to go in the first quarter.
“It was the whole gamut,” Mothershed said. “Special teams came through with some big plays. Our guys played hungry, and we are playing pretty good right now.”
Brown added a 13-yard touchdown run early in the second, and quarterback Justin Cantrell threw a 71-yard strike to BJ Bailey later in the half to give Deshler a 49-10 advantage at the break. Deshler’s offensive starters totaled 315 yards in the first two quarters and did not play in the second half.
“We just struck so fast. It’s good to see that frenzy. You know, we used to see those scoring frenzies sometimes here. It’s been good to see that the last couple of weeks,” Mothershed said.
North Jackson’s Daqwan Lowrance caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and Cesar Diaz kicked a 47-yard field goal in the second. C.J. Cobb scored twice in the second half, and Devonta Hutchins added another score. Deshler’s Sean Minetree also ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
As third-place finishers in their respective classifications and regions, both teams will travel for first-round playoff games next week. North Jackson visits Central, while Deshler travels to Hanceville.
Brown hopes the momentum from a strong finish will spill over into the postseason.
“We started off a little
slow and may have had
many doubts,” he said, “but me and my teammates kept believing. We’re still believing.”