Jonesboros special teams play was too much for Forest Park to handle in the Cardinals 32-0 win Friday night at Tara Stadium.
The Cardinals came out of the gate sluggish on offense, but their defense was a completely different story. The Panthers offense was held to a mere 78 yards in the first half, despite possessing the ball for five minutes of that half.
Jonesboros offense was troubled by the Panthers defensive efforts, producing 68 yards on three possessions. The difference maker in the opening quarter was the Cardinals special teams squad, led by Cameron Sutton. The junior wide receiver returned Forest Parks first punt for a touchdown but was called back on a holding penalty.
The Cardinals dealt with penalty problems throughout the game, committing 11 penalties for 135 yards. Jonesboro produced little on its opening possession, converting just two first downs before punting.
The Panthers, pinned at their own 29-yard line, were forced to punt after five plays yielded minimal yardage. Jonesboro junior Taurean Ferguson blocked the punt, which was returned by junior Dereon London 26 yards for a touchdown as the Cardinals lead 6-0 with 1:43 left in the opening quarter.
The Panthers assembled an onslaught of their own, driving from their own 22-yard line to Jonesboros 35-yard line before turning it over on downs. The Cardinals couldnt capitalize as they produced a three-and-out before punting to the Panthers.
Forest Park found some momentum, converting two first downs before punting back to Jonesboro. Sutton scored on a 76-yard punt return touchdown as the Cardinals increased the lead to 12-0 with 1:56 remaining.
Jonesboro came out strong to start the third quarter, with Sutton returning the kickoff 49 yards to the Forest Park 30-yard line. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, a chop-block penalty was called, resulting in a starting position at Forest Parks 45-yard line. Another penalty brought the ball back to Jonesboros 38-yard line.
The Cardinals were able to fight back, converting on third down to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, senior quarterback Cedric Nettles found Sutton wide open in the middle of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass for an 18-0 lead with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
Jonesboro opened the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by Patrick Petty to increase the lead to 24-0 with 11:35 remaining.
Jonesboros defense remained solid, as Sutton intercepted senior quarterback Lem Fullers pass on the second play of the Panthers possession. Another penalty was called on Jonesboro, bringing the ball back to its own 19-yard line. The Cardinals offense produced little as they were forced to punt.
Two possessions later, the Panthers junior punter Alexis Villavazo fumbled the snap as Jonesboro defensive lineman Joe Dallas recovered the ball and raced 26 yards a touchdown to close out the scoring.