Photo by Kyle Chambers
Jonesboro senior Cameron Sutton takes a handoff in the first half of the Cardinals’ Region 4A-AAAA contest at No. 3 Griffin on Friday.
GRIFFIN — For the second straight year, the Jonesboro Cardinals had Griffin on the ropes in the fourth quarter.
And for the second straight year, the third-ranked Bears found a way to break Jonesboro’s hearts.
Griffin used two fourth-quarter touchdown tosses from quarterback Jaquez Parks to notch a come-from-behind, 34-33 victory over the Cardinals in a 3 1/2-hour game that featured more than 30 penalities.
Quarterback Mario Atkinson put the Cardinals on the board first when he capped a 12-play, 51-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. The missed extra point made it 6-0 with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
But Griffin struck back quickly when Malik Miller burst through the middle of the Jonesboro defense for a 30-yard touchdown to put Griffin up 7-6.
Then, on Jonesboro’s ensuing drive, Atkinson threw a pass intended for Artemus Miller. Miller tipped it right into the hands of Malik Miller, who returned it for a 26-yard touchdown, extending the Bears’ lead to 14-6 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
Griffin stifled another Jonesboro drive deep within the Cardinals’ own territory and quickly went to work when Parks threw a strike to Jordan Colbert for 53 yards and a score, putting the Bears up 21-6 midway through the second quarter.
Despite having relative control of the game, the Bears called for an onside kick and Jonesboro recovered. On the next play, Sutton took the shotgun snap from the Wildcat formation and darted through the middle of Griffin’s defense for a 32-yard gain. Patrick Petty would score two plays later from 5 yards, and Sutton chipped in a two-point conversion to chop the Griffin lead to 21-14 and provide the Cardinals with momentum late in the first half.
On Griffin’s next drive, Sutton picked off a Parks pass and returned the ball to the Cardinals’ 30-yard line. Petty would score a 1-yard touchdown to cap a 12-play, 70-yard drive and tie the score at 21 going into the half.
Jonesboro came out swinging in the second half, when Patrick Petty made two tacklers miss and darted to the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown run. The extra-point try was blocked, however, but the score gave Jonesboro its first lead of the night at 27-21 with little more than two minutes gone in the third quarter.
After a Griffin three-and-out, the Cardinals would strike again, this time with an Atkinson-to-Sutton 47-yard touchdown strike. The Cardinals also missed the extra point, but had a 33-21 lead with less than five minutes to play in the third. Jonesboro’s defense began to take control and rattle Parks with relentless pressure and air-tight coverage in the secondary.
However, the Cardinals’ offense may have been too conservative. After five-play Jonesboro drive netted just four yards, the Cardinals punted back to Griffin and Parks gained his second wind on the fourth quarter’s first play, hitting running back Devonta Freeman in stride on a 24-yard touchdown pass to cut the Jonesboro lead to 33-28.
Two possessions later, Parks connected with sophomore wide receiver Darquavious Mangham for a 17-yard scoring strike to provide the final margin. Just like in last year’s 47-43, first-round playoff defeat against Griffin last November, the Cardinals came up just a little bit short.
At 3-0, Griffin may now be the early favorite to win the Region 4B-AAAA crown. Griffin will play at Woodland next Friday while the 2-1 Cardinals travel to winless Eagle’s Landing.