By Jeffery Armstrong
Mt. Zion Bulldogs running back Rashad Cunningham may want to pick this weekend's lottery numbers.
The senior said he nodded off on the bus on the way to Friday's game against the Jonesboro Cardinals and dreamed he would run a kickoff back for a touchdown in that game.
Cunningham didn't waste time making his dream come true, taking the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to give Mt. Zion a 7-0 lead 16 seconds into the game en route to a 26-0 drubbing of the Cardinals at Tara Stadium.
Mt. Zion, a Region 5-AAAA West team, improves to 3-0 while Jonesboro, out of Region 5-AAAA East, falls to 1-1-1. Mt. Zion's win sets up a huge East-West region showdown next week with the North Clayton Eagles, also 3-0 after a 56-7 thrashing of Forest Park Friday.
"I think we could've played better we played about 80 percent tonight," said Cunningham, who also scored a rushing touchdown to bring his team-leading TD total to six. "We practiced hard, but it was a short week because of the hurricane so we weren't as sharp as we could be."
It's hard to imagine Mt. Zion playing any sharper, especially on defense. The Bulldogs held Jonesboro to 62 first-half yards (-2 yards rushing) while they racked up 178 first-half yards. Mt. Zion defenders tallied eight sacks in the contest; Jonesboro starting quarterback Daniel Cazenave was sacked seven times.
Jonesboro had a chance to tie the game at seven in the first quarter as Cazenave (11 of 24, 141 yards) engineered a drive from the Cardinals 40 to the Mt. Zion 11. But Mt. Zion's Marcello Simmons intercepted a Cazenave pass in the end zone seconds later and brought it back to the nine-yard line.
Mt. Zion then proceeded to drive 91 yards in 13 plays, culminating in a 28-yard TD pass from Bulldogs quarterback Darryl Tolbert to wide receiver Keon Montgomery for a 14-0 lead with 1:17 left in the first.
Disaster struck again for Jonesboro seconds later on the ensuing kickoff as Cardinals' returner Tyderick Williams was hit and fumbled. Mt. Zion's Valin Leggett recovered the ball and scampered 25 yards for a touchdown at the 1:03 mark. The extra point was missed and Mt. Zion led 20-0.
Another 91-yard drive ended in Cunningham's second-quarter touchdown. The missed extra point stretched the lead to 26-0. Jonesboro had opportunities to score in the second half, but penalties and the Bulldogs defense stopped them. Jonesboro was penalized nine times for 100 yards.
Jonesboro had a first-and-goal from the nine yard line in the third quarter, but sacks by Martin Ward and Derek Slaughter ended the Cardinals threat. Slaughter's sack was on fourth-and-goal.
"Our goal was to attack, attack, attack," said Mt. Zion senior linebacker Marlon Abernathy, who had four sacks. "Our coaches tell us to dominate for 48 minutes and we did. We weren't thinking about North Clayton we focused on the task at hand and that was Jonesboro."
Defenders Rocky Lee, Roger Morris and Dennis Savage made several big tackles for Jonesboro Friday.