By Lee Wright
Special to the Daily
Whatever head coach Rodney Hackney said to his six-ranked North Clayton Eagles (8-1) at halftime on Friday night in their Region 4AAAA game against Jonesboro (2-7) must have resonated very well.
Leading only 7-0 at halftime, North Clayton erupted for 28 points in the second half and cruised to a convincing 35-0 victory over Jonesboro at Southern Crescent Stadium. North Clayton remained in second place behind top-ranked Griffin in Region 4AAAA, improving to 8-1 overall and 7-1 in the Region. Jonesboro falls to 2-7 overall and 1-7 in the region.
The score wasn't indicative of how inspired Jonesboro played in the first half. The Cardinals twice stopped North Clayton on downs in the first half, and the only Eagle score was a 19-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior tailback Clarence Jackson with 10:16 remaining in the first half. In fact, Jonesboro limited Jackson, who has verbally committed next season to Ole Miss, to only 23 yards rushing in the first half.
But the wheels came undone for Jonesboro in second half, starting on the opening kickoff when the Cardinals' Taureon Ferguson fumbled on the Jonesboro 28-yard line. North Clayton cashed in as Jackson scored on a 12-yard scamper with 9:06 remaining.
Special teams woes did the Cardinals in on their next possession as the Eagles blocked a Jonesboro punt, taking possession at the Cardinal 15. Three plays later, Jackson scored his third touchdown of the game on a 3-yard jaunt. North Clayton, however, wasn't finished by any means. On its ensuing possession following an interception, the Eagles drove to the Jonesboro 7, where Jackson completed a 7-yard jump pass to Damien Bester out of the Wildcat formation with 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
North Clayton's final score of the game came with 7:08 remaining in the game when quarterback Dennis Johnson connected with Kyle Taylor on a 32-yard touchdown strike.
After the slow start in the first half, Jackson finished with 113 yards on 19 carries to go with his three touchdowns. Freshman halfback LaDarrius Mathis added 30 yards on eight carries, while Johnson completed 3-for-7 passes for 76 yards and the touchdown pass. For the game, the Eagles had 290 yards of total offense.
Defensively, North Clayton stymied the Jonesboro offensive attack, limiting the Cardinals to a mere 38 yards of total offense, including only five yards rushing.