Photo by Derrick Mahone
Rex Mill running back Taija Cofer celebrates are scoring a touchdown in Tuesday’s middle school playoffs in a 44-14 win over M.D. Roberts to advance to next week’s championship game.
By Gabriel Stovall
HAMPTON — When M.D. Roberts looks back on its semifinal loss to Rex Mill Middle, the Rams may consider themselves to be a greater adversary than the Yellow Jackets.
Instead, Josh Lowery’s 104 rushing yards and two scores led a relentless Rex Mill ground game that powered the Yellow Jackets to a 44-14 on Tuesday win at Twelve Oaks Stadium that advances them to the middle school championship game next week.
For M.D. Roberts, it was penalties that stymied potential scoring drives, dropped passes and several unassisted tackles by the Twelve Oaks Stadium turf plagued the Rams all evening and caused coach Rosby Johnson to wonder “what if.”
“Lots of mistakes,” Johnson said. “But I will say they fought, fought and fought. They wanted this game. And if we would’ve taken care of the mistakes, it would’ve been a different game. But you can’t beat a Rex Mill by playing that way.”
Rex Mill Yellow Jackets took scored on their first possession, capping a nine-play, 64-yard drive with Kaziah Hall’s 14-yard touchdown scamper to put Rex Mill up 8-0 with 2:49 left in a shortened first quarter due to Rex Mill’s late arrival to the stadium.
M.D. Roberts attempted to answer with a long drive of its own. The Rams used 18 plays to march 70 yards down the field, getting as close as 1st and goal on the Rex Mill seven yard line. But back to back false start penalties and a delay of game pushed Roberts back. And on fourth and goal from the Yellow Jackets 20, Dwight Robins sacked Rams quarterback Cory Turner to end the drive.
Turner would actually intercept an errant pass from Rex Mill quarterback Javon Henderson several plays later, but it produced harmless results as the Rams could only run one play to run out the clock. The Yellow Jackets would take an 8-0 lead into the half.
Rex Mill would open the third quarter by recovering an onside kick and scoring seven plays later when running back Taija Cofer powered his way into the endzone on a two-yard scoring plunge to put Rex Mill up 14-0.
This time, when M.D. Roberts had the chance to respond, it would find success when Turner hooked up with Lenox Copeland for a 17-yard scoring toss on fourth down to pull within 14-7 with 1:08 left in the third quarter.
But a fourth quarter Rex Mill scoring explosion — including touchdown jaunts of 42 and 54 yards by Lowery ended any hopes of a comeback for the Rams who finished the season 5-3.
For Rex Mill, the victory was especially sweet as its two victories against their cross-town rivals – one in the regular season and one in the playoffs – returned the favor from last year when the Rams handed Rex Mill the same fate.
And Yellow Jackets coach Rodney Screen will make his second appearance in the title game in three years with the team.
“It feels good,” Screen said. “All those workouts in the summer are paying off. It’s hard getting here, and especially against Roberts. It seems like we’ve always got to go through them.”