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Indians dodge upset
JACKSON Mo. -- Too close for comfort.
The Jackson Indians, ranked sixth in the state, barely survived an upset bid by Vianney High on a Friday night when it seemed nothing went Jackson's way. But the Indians did just enough to win 49-35 in a shootout at Jackson Stadium.
The Golden Griffins threw the whole playbook at the Indians and Jackson (8-0) didn't respond well.
Vianney (2-6) recovered an on-side kick in the first quarter, scored on a double-pass play and completed several other long passes, catching the Indians off guard.
But Jackson -- which lost four fumbles -- made some big plays, too.
Mario Whitney had a hand in six touchdowns.
He returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score, he rushed for three touchdowns, caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Bryan Austin and he threw a 27-yard score to Seth McDowell.
Whitney finished with 259 rushing yards on 35 carries and 396 all-purpose yards.
The Indians, who trailed just once this season going into the game, trailed 7-0 and 14-7. Jackson owned a 28-21 lead at halftime, but never led by more than 14.
After the game, Jackson coach Carl Gross made no excuses, admitting he and his team underestimated their opponent.
"Most of it is my fault," Gross said. "We had a total lack of concentration. We had that deer-in-the-headlight look all night long. We were real lucky to win. But I will get that fixed this week and we will be a better football team next week."
The biggest play of the game was Jackson's only touchdown when Whitney wasn't involved.
Jackson was leading 35-28, but the Indians had just gone three-and-out and Vianney had the momentum with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Sophomore defensive lineman Tyler McNeely applied pressure on Vianney quarterback Travis Hewitt and managed to grab the quarterback around the waist.
Hewitt got rid of it just before falling to the ground around his own 5, but outside linebacker James Love made a leaping interception and ran a fabulous 20-yard return for a touchdown.
Jackson safety Justin Thompson - who caught three passes for 31 yards on offense - thought the Indians came out flat.
"Everything went wrong," he said.
"We just didn't have our heads into it. But we have to look ahead now. Honestly, this will help us. It was an eye opener and it gave us insight on some of our weaknesses and this game will give us some things to work on."
But it was apparent that Vianney had worked on a lot of things going into this week.
The Griffins used their big receivers to their advantage against Jackson's small secondary. Vianney completed six passes of 20 yards or more and two over 50. All of their touchdowns came through the air with the exception of a 10-yard run by Brandon Holland and a 91-yard kickoff return by Holland.
Vianney had 242 passing yards, but only 40 rushing yards.
"We may not have the most impressive record," said Vianney coach Glen Gladstone. "But we have impressive character."