Westover RB Dalviness Greene, left, escapes the tackle of a Jonesboro defender Friday night during their state playoff opener. (joe.bellacomoalbanyherald.com)
ALBANY — This time, Westover hung on.
The Patriots ran for over 300 yards and upset No. 7 Jonesboro, 26-21, in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs Friday.
Running back Shannon Saunders ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and the Patriots got revenge for a 34-12 loss earlier in the season to the Cardinals.
Westover (8-3) will host South Effingham Friday at Hugh Mills Stadium in the second round.
Jonesboro star Cameron Sutton was held to 98 yards receiving and just 13 yards rushing. Mario Atkinson threw for 174 yards on 11-of-21 passing, but his fourth-down pass with under 30 seconds to play and Jonesboro down by five was batted down by Westover’s Jackie Childs.
Jonesboro (9-2) scored 26 unanswered points in the second half of the first meeting on Sept. 7 in Albany, but managed just 13 Friday against a healthy Westover defense.
Jonesboro cut the Westover lead to 26-21 with 3:34 to play on Patrick Petty’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Westover had taken a 26-14 lead after Saunders ran over a Cardinals’ defender and scored from 17 yards with 5:07 to play after the PAT failed.
Westover and Jonesboro traded scores in the third quarter. Artemus Mitchell scored on a 9-yard run with 5:49 left in the third and after the two-point conversion try failed, the Cardinals led 14-12.
Westover answered with Saunders’ 40-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion to take a 20-14 lead with 1:12 left in the third quarter.
Westover dominated the first half with a power rushing attack that tallied 218 yards and scored twice. The Patriots outgained Jonesboro 225-95 in the first 24 minutes, but one turnover kept the Cardinals in it.
Jonesboro’s Keith Kent intercepted Westover quarterback T.J. Cromer and returned it 16 yards for a score with 6:28 left before half. Jonesboro faked the point after and pitched to Kent, who scored on the two-point conversion to give the Cardinals an 8-6 lead.
Westover answered with a 10-play drive covering 67 yards in 5:22. Saunders carried the load on the drive with 51 yards and Deion Greene punched it in from 3 yards.
Saunders ran for 119 yards on six carries in the first half.
Westover missed its second extra point of the night and led 12-8 with 1:06 left before half, the same score the Patriots led Jonesboro in the first matchup before the Cardinals scored 26 straight.
Westover opened the scoring after Saunders rumbled 68 yards to the Jonesboro 2, leading to Antravious Parks’ scoring run with 7:12 left in the first quarter. The point after was blocked.
Westover will host round two after Region 2-AAAA champion Westside-Macon was upset 43-33 by Region 3-AAAA No. 4 seed South Effingham.