Photo by Jerry Jackson
Jonesboro senior Cameron Sutton (7) breaks away for a gain in the Cardinals game against Dutchtown at Southern Crescent Stadium on Friday.
RIVERDALE — The playoffs offically start in one week, but judging by the atmosphere and circumstances of the Region 4-AAAA play-in game between Jonesboro and Dutchtown, the postseason came one week early. Onside kicks, fake punts, and long runs ruled the night at Southern Crescent Stadium, as both teams sought to leave everything on the field.
Jonesboro jumped out to a three-touchdown first-quarter lead and made enough plays afterward to win 43-28 and punch its ticket to the Class AAAA playoffs, while ending the Bulldogs’ season.
The playoff berth for the Cardinals (9-1) means two postseason trips in the last two years, a first in the school’s history.
“It’s a great achievement. I’m real proud of the guys,” said Cardinals head coach Tim Floyd. “We started out together four years ago with this senior class and this was one of the goals we set.”
Leading 36-28, Jonesboro’s Dereon London recovered a Dutchtown onside kick. Cameron Sutton punctuated the ensuing drive with 1:02 left, scoring on a 4-yard run for his third touchdown to seal the win. The Bulldogs had started the game with a successful onside kick, but didn’t surprise the Cardinals again.
“It’s definitely an emotional feeling,” Sutton said. “All year, we’ve been talking about making the playoffs, making a run for the state championship. The past couple of weeks, the senior class has been preaching to the younger guys that we don’t want this season to end. We want to go out on a great note.”
Sutton played a hand in Jonesboro’s first three scores. After receiving a pitch, he pitched the ball to Artemus Mitchell on a double reverse and watched Mitchell go 49 yards for a touchdown.
Then, helped by good field position thanks to Geron Johnson’s onside recovery of a Jonesboro pooch kick, Jonesboro succeeded on a fake punt. Sutton weaved in and out of traffic from 35 yards out to score. Later, quarterback Mario Atkinson found Sutton on the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown pass, as Sutton made one defender miss before finding the end zone. Sutton totaled 89 yards for the game.
Dutchtown (6-4) refused to go away, however. Donovahn Jones connected with Brandon Thomas on a 63-yard touchdown to get the Bulldogs within 21-7 at halftime.
Jones sat out the second half because of injury, but an effective rushing attack kept Dutchtown close. William Smith’s 25-yard touchdown run with 6:19 left in the third quarter brought the Bulldogs to within 21-14.
Patrick Petty answered immediately for Jonesboro, hesitating before going down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown run and a 29-14 Cardinals lead.
Once again, Dutchtown’s running game got it close, as Malik Barkley scored on a 31-yard rushing TD to close within 29-21. But once again Petty increased the Jonesboro lead, this time to 36-21 with a 38-yard rushing touchdown.
Petty finished with nine carries for 167 yards and the two touchdowns. He also had three receptions for 60 yards.
Backup quarterback K’lin Epps’ 22-yard lob to Thomas got the Bulldogs within eight, before Sutton’s final score.
“The game plan going in was to run the football and keep their offense off the field, because nobody’s been able to stop them all year,” said Dutchtown head coach Jason Galt. “We just couldn’t slow them down.”
Smith rushed for 172 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown.
It was the final game for 17 Bulldog seniors, including Jones and lineman Jordan Harris.
Jonesboro will travel to Albany next week to face Westover in a first-round playoff matchup. The Cardinals won at Westover earlier in the season.