Poplar Bluff hands Jackson a 25-6 homecoming loss

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A forgettable season became memorable for the wrong reason Friday night when Jackson fell to 0-7 for the first time in its 115-year history of football.

A combination of six Jackson turnovers and the Poplar Bluff running duo of Zach Ferguson and Eljie Johnson proved too much to overcome for the Indians, who were dealt a 25-6 homecoming loss.

The victory was the fourth straight for Poplar Bluff, which stunned Jackson with two early touchdowns and improved to 5-2.

Meanwhile the winless Indians were not looking at history, instead choosing to look at the clean slate that the three-game district schedule, which begins next week, provides.

"We're 0-0 as far as I'm concerned," said junior running back Ethan Ruch, who accounted for more than half of Jackson's offense with 75 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving. "We've got to get the district going. We can't dwell on the past."

Junior linebacker Ryan Marble provided Jackson's lone points Friday when he blocked a punt and fell on it in the end zone during the second quarter.

"It's been a tough season, but we're not playing together as a team yet," Marble said. "We've got to play as a team and do our hardest all the time. We've got the talent, we're just not playing up to the potential."

Like Ruch, Marble was not running up the white flag.

"We win three games and we're going to state," Marble said. "We had the second-toughest schedule in the state."

Jackson is not the only team struggling in a four-team district with a combined record of 3-24.

"That's the way you have to look at it," Jackson coach Van Hitt said of his players' optimism. "Our district is awful weak. We have as legitimate a shot of winning this district as anyone does."

Central and Jackson are both 0-7, while Rockwood Summit is 1-6 and Eureka is 2-4. All four teams lost Friday night.

Jackson squandered its opportunity to build district momentum against the Mules. And the Indians did it in quick, dramatic fashion.

The Mules needed just 19 seconds to create an uphill climb for Jackson on a muddy track.

'Knew what was coming'

On Poplar Bluff's first play from scrimmage, Johnson broke loose for a 77-yard touchdown run.

"We knew what was coming because that's what they do the first play, and we misplayed it," Hitt said. "Our safety, and some kids, took the wrong angle on him. They weren't used to his speed, but once they got that figured out, we were OK. He never did break that the rest of the night. He may have got a few yards on it, but nothing like that very first play."

Johnson finished with 94 yards on eight carries.

After Johnson's touchdown, Jackson fumbled the ensuing kickoff at its own 29. It would help the Mules grab a 13-0 lead before a struggling Indians offense could run its first play.

"They've played some tough teams, and we just wanted to come out fast," said Ferguson, who ran for 177 yards and scored two second-half touchdowns. "That's been our problem in the past. We start off slow and it's too late by the time we get there. But we've really been focusing on starting out fast, and that really helped this game a lot."

Jackson overcame its initial shock and trailed just 13-6 at halftime, but Ferguson sealed the Indians' fate with a 10-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and a 50-yard jaunt less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

"They've got a lot of pride, and they will not stop," Ferguson said. "It was good to get the momentum on our side."

Jackson aided the Mules' second touchdown by more than just giving Poplar Bluff good field position with the fumble. After a holding penalty and a fumble left the Mules with a third-and-30 at the Jackson 32, the Indians were called for pass interference on a 15-yard completion on third down. The completion would have left Poplar Bluff with a long fourth down, but instead the penalty gave the Mules a first down at Jackson's 17. Poplar Bluff scored five plays later and led 13-0 at the 5:34 mark of the first quarter.

"That gets them their second touchdown," Hitt said. "Like I said, it's just silly things. The mistakes we make are just at a very vital time of the ballgame. That gives them a first and they go on to score."

From that point on, the Indians stopped Poplar Bluff on seven consecutive possessions. Five of those possessions did not net a first down.

"They're pretty tough to stop, but I thought we did a better job of containing them toward the middle of the game," Ruch said. "They just had a few breakaways."

Marble provided a spark when he ended the Mules' third possession with a block of Jake Smith's punt.

"I had a pretty straight run at it," Marble said. "I didn't know where the ball was at and I saw it at my feet and jumped on it."

Jackson mishandled the snap on the extra point and trailed 13-6 with just over a minute expired in the second quarter.

"It was something positive, and I think it turned the tide in the game a little bit," Marble said. "We were down 13-0 five minutes into the game, and then got that score. We just have to carry the momentum from that stuff throughout the whole game."

The most notable event in the remaining minutes of the fourth quarter was a head injury to Jackson linebacker Scott Kinder, who was removed on a stretcher after a 15-minute delay. Hitt said Kinder suffered a mild concussion when he hit his head on the ground. He expected Kinder to be OK, but the senior was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

Poplar Bluff13066--25

First Quarter

PB -- Eljie Johnson 77 run (Kenyon Francis kick), 11:41

PB -- Zach McAnulty 1 run (kick failed), 5:34

Second Quarter

J -- Ryan Marble blocked punt (conversion pass failed), 10:55

Third Quarter

PB -- Zach Ferguson 10 run (kick failed), :34

Fourth Quarter

PB -- Ferguson 50 run (kick failed), 10:49

First downs128
Passing yards5110


RUSHING -- Poplar Bluff, Johnson 8-94, Ferguson 28-177, McAnulty 14-32, Greg Coble 1-1, Team 1-(-6); Jackson, Ethan Ruch 19-75, Marble 2-8, Bobby Clark 5-(-16)

PASSING -- Poplar Bluff, McAnulty 2-8-5-1; Jackson, Clark 9-26-110-2

RECEIVING -- Poplar Bluff, Johnson 1-3, Ferguson 1-2; Jackson, Tyler Seabaugh 2-16, Ruch 4-61, Eli Gohn 1-6, Skyler Kempf 2-27.

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