Photo by Jerry Jackson / Mount Zion quarterback Montel Buchanan helped the Bulldogs to their first win of the season on Friday with a 31-17 victory over Forest Park at Tara Stadium.
JONESBORO — Mount Zion and Forest Park both came into their Region 4-AAAAA, Division A meeting at Tara Stadium with identical 0-8, 0-4 records. Both also had first-year head coaches looking for their first win.
When the dust settled, it was Mount Zion’s propensity to make big plays that led the Bulldogs to a 31-17 win over a short-handed Panther squad.
“It came a little longer than I wanted it to, but I’m glad it came,” said Mount Zion head coach Ervin Starr. “I’m so proud of [my team] for sticking it out and believing in our coaches.”
Chris Hudley scored three touchdowns and quarterback Montel Buchanan led a Mount Zion passing attack with 259 yards and two touchdowns, completing 17 of 33 attempts.
Deon Dawson got Mount Zion off to a 7-0 lead with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:16 left in the first quarter. A Buchanan 18-yard scramble on a third-and-14 set up the score.
Forest Park saw its best success early, moving the ball on the ground. Carlo Dowdell’s 22-yard jet sweep led to a DeJuan Simms 1-yard touchdown run with 11:12 left in the second quarter. That brought the Panthers within 7-6.
The Panthers’ good rushing fortunes would not last long, however. Halfway through the second quarter, Mount Zion stopped Forest Park cold on a fourth-and-2 on its own 42. The Bulldogs took over and just five plays later, Hudley was going into the end zone off an end around for a 13-6 lead.
“They were doing a great job on the jet sweep and were blocking it very well,” Starr said. “We just told our safeties if they go in motion for the jet sweep, just to crash down and take the guy in motion.”
In the second half, Mount Zion built on its lead. Antonio Thomas hesitated in fielding the half’s opening kickoff and then shed a tackler and raced 80 yards to put the Bulldogs at the Forest Park 10. Buchanan cashed in with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Hudley to make the score 19-6. Buchanan added a 28-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Kitchens later in the third quarter and Hudley capped the Bulldog scoring with a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hudley finished the night with five catches for 94 yards.
The win also snapped a 10-game losing streak for Mount Zion. Mount Zion will conclude its season next week against Starr’s Mill.
Forest Park now has lost 22 of its last 23 games. This particular loss came with the Panthers minus 17 players because of disciplinary reasons.
“I’m not making excuses,” said Forest Park head coach Don Williams. “But we had a lot of guys going both ways with us not having our players and that caught up with us in the second half.”
Brandon Williams led Forest Park with 150 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
Forest Park closes its season Thursday, hosting Spalding.