JEFFERSON — Behind Jackson County running back Malik Tuck and East Hall quarterback Austin Parker, the teams were deadlocked at the end of regulation Friday night.
When the dust had settled at the end, Jackson County triumphed over East Hall 34-28 in overtime.
After East Hall was unable to score on its overtime possession, Jackson County drove down and won in a 1-yard run by Jorge Monzon.
Tuck ended the game with 347 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries. He and the Panthers (3-1, 0-0) needed all of them to keep up with Parker’s 316 passing yards.
“I told them I was going to carry the team and win for Austin Lewis because he got hurt,” said Tuck. “We had to do it for him. He’s one of our brothers and he came out here to win with us.”
“Tuck did a great job of protecting the football, and second he kept running hard,” Panthers coach Brandon Worley said. “Some holes were small but he just kept pounding, I’ve known he could do this and tonight he finally did.”
Parker and the Vikings (0-3, 0-0) controlled the game in the first quarter and led 14-0. He led a 78-yard drive to start the game and finished it with a 9-yard pass to Tripp Rider. The next possession went for 80 yards and culminated in a 47-yard pass to Markese Jackson.
The game shifted in the Panthers’ favor in the second quarter starting with an interception by Chase Wester he returned to the Vikings 46-yard line. Tuck had all 46 yards, ending with a 15-yard run to slim the lead to 14-7.
East Hall’s ensuing possession ended with a fumble at the 25-yard line. A personal foul by the Panthers moved them back to the 12, but Tuck took the handoff and ran 88 yards to tie the game at 14.
East Hall took the momentum in the third quarter starting with a 21-yard pass to Jackson to take a 21-14 lead. For a while, it looked as if the Vikings would take over until Lewis went down with a neck injury with East Hall at the Panthers’ 5-yard line.
While he was down, Lewis told his team to win the game, according to Worley. After that, the Panther defense made a big stop to get East Hall to fourth down. When the Viking holder fumbled the snap on a field goal try, the score remained 21-14.
An interception of Parker’s pass by Mason Williams later gave the Panthers the ball at the Vikings’ 29-yard line. All Tuck needed was one handoff to tie the game at 21-21.
Tuck gave the Panthers their first lead of the game on their next possession with a 6-yard run that ended a 65-yard drive. He had some help from the passing game on that drive as Caleb Matthews hooked up with Wester on a 26-yard pass on third-and-7.
The lead didn’t last long. Williams scored his third touchdown of the game with a 75-yard return on the kickoff to tie the game at 28.
East Hall started overtime with the ball, but the Panthers forced three incompletions and a sack. They took over and Tuck drove them to the 1-yard line before Monzon’s winning plunge.
“I’m super excited because there were a lot of kids that probably didn’t know they were going to see the field tonight,” said Worley. “They had to step up and they made plays to fill in some spots.
“That shows me that they’re doing what it takes day in and day out to get better and support one another.”
Despite this being their third loss of the year, East Hall head coach Bryan Gary had good reason proud of his team.
“They (Jackson County) did a good job, they had a good plan, we played our hardest and that’s football,” Gary said. “We have no complaints; we played our hearts out and that’s what I honored them on.
“That running back did an excellent job, he provided the boost that got them back into the game. We came up short but we’re going to be 10 times better for it.