By Lee Wright
Special to the Daily
One of the oldest high school football rivalries in Clayton County was renewed on Friday night. In turn, both Forest Park and Jonesboro were looking for any kind of break as both teams battled five-game losing streaks.
However, Jonesboro rallied behind its big-play defense and recorded a 21-6 victory in the 44th meeting in this battle of old county rivals at Tara Stadium. With the victory, Jonesboro improves to 2-5 overall, while Forest Park continues to struggle at 1-6.
If the opening drive was any indication, it appeared Jonesboro would run away with it. The Cardinals drove 63 yards in only four plays as halfback Ryan Brown gained 48 of those yards. He scampered 20 yards for a first down to the Forest Park 31-yard line.
Two plays later, Brown scampered up the middle for a touchdown, and the two-point conversion gave Jonesboro an early 8-0 lead.
However, the Cardinals managed only 67 yards of total offense after that drive, but its defense came up big time and time again when stuck in precarious situations.
Forest Park either drove into or took over possession in Jonesboro six times and had only score to show for it.
After recovering a Cardinal fumble on Jonesboro's second offensive possession, Forest Park drove 39 yards in nine plays behind some strong running by tailback Stefan Clark.
DeAngelo Heard finished the drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge on 4th-and-goal, but the two-point conversion attempt to tie the game failed on an incomplete pass.
Forest Park had two golden opportunities to take control of the game in the second half. Jonesboro's Contereze Pierce was tackled for an 8-yard loss and fumbled the ball to Forest Park on the Cardinal 18 with 3:32 remaining in the third quarter. Forest Park drove to the Jonesboro 10, but the Cardinals stopped Forest Park halfback DeAngelo Heard for no gain on 4th-and-1.
After losing another fumble deep in its territory early in the fourth quarter, the Jonesboro defense made arguably the play of the game. Monte Shannon intercepted a Jameyon Williamson pass on the Cardinal 10 and returned it 84 yards to the Forest Park 6. Three plays later, Cardinal quarterback Alejandro Bennifield found Johnathan Smith in the right corner of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass and a 15-6 Cardinal lead with 7:50 remaining.
Following a short Forest Park punt, Jonesboro put the nail in the coffin. Taking over on the Forest Park 29, Heard put the icing on the cake with a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:19 remaining in the game.
Heard finished the game with 94 yards rushing on 18 carries to pace Jonesboro, while Clark gained 67 yards on 11 carries for Forest Park. However, Williamson managed only 3-for-16 passing for 59 yards, and Forest Park had only 137 yards of total offense for the game.