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Jonesboro's Petty no pushover

Jonesboro senior running back Patrick Petty had a 79-yard touchdown on a kickoff return last Friday to help the Cardinals to a come-from-behind win at Westover. Jonesboro plays at Griffin this weekend.

Jonesboro senior running back Patrick Petty had a 79-yard touchdown on a kickoff return last Friday to help the Cardinals to a come-from-behind win at Westover. Jonesboro plays at Griffin this weekend.

Patrick Petty made Westover pay last Friday.

As Cameron Sutton made highlight reel plays all night on offense and defense against the Albany school, the last thing the Patriots wanted to do was give Sutton an opportunity to electrify the crowd on special teams.

Westover coach Octavia Jones stressed the playmaking ability of Sutton to his team leading up to game night

“That’s the guy I had been preaching about all week,” Jones said of Sutton during postgame interviews. “He’s a playmaker.”

But when Westover had to kick off after a first quarter score, the Patriots quickly found out that Sutton wasn’t the only one.

The Patriots kicked off shorter than normal, and away from Sutton.

And that’s exactly what Petty said he was waiting for.

“I was like ‘they finally kicked to me,’” Petty said. “I knew they were trying to avoid Cam.”

The Patriots probably wished they had avoided Petty too.

Petty fielded the ball at the 21-yard line, and followed a wall of Jonesboro blockers down the field before breaking to the sideline.

Seventy-nine yards later — touchdown.

Suddenly, Jonesboro had life in a game where they were being dominated through most of the first half.

Petty went on to add 40 rushing yards on seven carries to his stat line, not to mention a forced fumble.

Although Sutton got headlines for his 122 yards of total offense and three scores, Petty’s timely touchdown provided the foundation that led to Jonesboro’s 34-18 comeback win.

It also reinforced assistant coach Nathan Wardlaw’s perception of how valuable Petty is to a team loaded with skill position talent.

“He is a big piece of our offense and team’s success,” said Wardlaw who assumed head coaching duties in the absence of head coach Tim Floyd.

Floyd was serving the back end of a two-game suspension for violating a recruiting rule.

“He’s huge for us,” Wardlaw said. “We’ve got plenty of weapons and versatility but I’m anticipating a huge impact from him, especially this week.”

Ah, yes. This week. Griffin week. The opportunity for the Cardinals to punch back at the third-ranked Griffin Bears who knocked them out of last season’s playoffs in a heartbreaking 47-43 loss.

But things are different this year. For one, it’s the regular season. And after Georgia High School Association’s bi-annual reclassification, Griffin and Jonesboro are paired together in Region 4B-AAAA.

For Wardlaw, that means the game should bring even more motivation to Jonesboro than any mere revenge factor.

“I will say there is the chance for us to redeem ourselves a bit,” he said. “But it’s not even about that. This is a region game, and the winner of this game can really put themselves in the driver’s seat for playoff position. I think that’s far more important than whatever happened last year.”

Not that last year won’t be on Jonesboro’s mind — especially for Petty who was out for the season with a broken clavicle when the Bears and Cardinals met.

With Vanderbilt recruit Taurean Ferguson and Sutton getting the bulk of the notoriety during the offseason, Petty could be tempted toward a little envy. But Wardlaw says, ‘not so.’

“Pat, he’s playing great this year and it’s what I expected from him,” Wardlaw said. “In talking to him during the offseason, you know, his peers seem to get a little more publicity, but it’s not a jealousy thing with Pat. He just came in with a little more drive, and a lot more focus in the offseason and now he’s playing at a level to where he’s letting it all hang out.”

Petty — also a standout point guard on Jonesboro’s state tournament basketball team — said he gave “100 percent commitment to football this summer.”

And it’s paying off. Not just for him, but for how he desires to help his team rich its goals — starting Friday night at Griffin.

“I’m very confident we can go in and win that game,” he said. “I think we are focused on going down there and proving to people that we’re not just old sorry Jonesboro. No one thinks we can win this game except us.”