Photo by Jerry Jackson
Cedric Nettles (1) gets a block from Patrick Petty and looks for an open receiver. Nettles passed for one touchdown and ran for another in Jonesboro’s victory.
Down by double-digits at halftime, it wasn’t a paint-peeling coach’s speech that started Jonesboro on the road to a comeback victory Friday. A contrite quarterback and an opportunistic junior with a broken pinky did just fine.
The Cardinals rallied behind quarterback Cedric Nettles and Dereon London for a 19-13 victory over Creekside in a Region 4-AAAA game at Twelve Oaks Stadium, doing a sudden 180 in what looked like a lost cause for nearly three quarters into their fourth straight victory.
In the victory that gave Jonesboro its best start to a season since the 1978 team also went 4-0, the Cardinals trailed 13-0 at halftime. That’s when Nettles got in front of his teammates and took the blame for the sputtering offense.
“I put it on myself and apologized to the team because my mind wasn’t in it, and I told them I had their back in the second half,” Nettles said. “I told them the game wasn’t over, to keep fighting, because that’s what we did all that extra conditioning for, and just leave it on the field.”
Creekside left it on the field, too — the ball, that is. The Seminoles turned the ball over four times in 13 minutes, beginning immediately after Patrick Petty scored Jonesboro’s first touchdown on a 19-yard run with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
Creekside got cute and paid the price swiftly.
The Seminoles tried a reverse on the kickoff return, only the ball squirted out on a handoff and London, broken pinky and all, pounced on it.
“I needed to recover so we could get in the red zone,” London said.
That’s where they were for all of two plays. Nettles plunged in from the 1 with 5.8 seconds left in the quarter and, after trailing for nearly 32 minutes of game time, Jonesboro had tied things up in a 72-second span.
Creekside didn’t try anything fancy on the next return, but had not exhausted its supply of turnovers. On the Seminoles’ first play from scrimmage, they coughed the ball up again and Petty fell on it. Nothing resulted, but Creekside wasn’t finished.
The Seminoles got the ball back with 9:47 to go and immediately Taurean Ferguson intercepted an Evan Berry pass. The Cardinals made them pay on fourth-and-10 from the 17 as Nettles found a leaping London for a touchdown pass that would cap the scoring.
“That was just an adjustment I made,” London said. “The linebacker came up and I slipped behind him.”
Nettles called it “our bread and butter play. That’s what we were looking for, for them to hand it to us.”
The Seminoles kept handing it to them, all right. Their last turnover came with Berry desperately passing on a last-gasp drive, the ball settling once again in Petty’s hands.
“We’ve done a good job with that, converting turnovers and takeaways, and that’s what we’re going to have to do to be successful,” Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd said.
Creekside was in control in the first half. Berry found Josh Holsey on a 12-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead. The Seminoles extended it when freshman Bricen Terry gashed the Cardinals on three runs over four plays, taking Creekside from its 22 to the end zone with 22.6 seconds left in the first half. The extra point was blocked and Creekside led 13-0.
“At halftime, I thought we had made too many mistakes to dig a hole,” Floyd said. “We needed to come out with more intensity, more enthusiasm.”
But four Creekside turnovers helped even more and that’s why the Seminoles fell to 2-3 — their worst start since beginning 1-4 in 1995.