East Jackson's Nick Alvarado missed a 49-yard field goal with 2.7 seconds left Friday night as West Hall escaped with with the win.
Trailing 27-21, Stephens led the Spartans on a 65-yard drive for the winning score. The sophomore passed for 312 yards. Gibson finished with 10 receptions and 184 receiving yards.
East Jackson (0-1) started the scoring with back-to-back rushing touchdowns from senior running back Robbie King in the first quarter. West Hall (1-0) quickly responded, however, with a touchdown reception by senior receiver Rodney Gibson. The touchdown was Gibson’s first of three on the night.
Thanks to a 5-yard touchdown run with 3:54 remaining in the second quarter from senior running back Cody Hall, the Eagles took the lead 21-14.
It only took the Spartans a couple of minutes to respond to Hall’s touchdown.
Stephens connected with Gibson on a 58-yard bomb with 2:06 minutes left in the first half. It was the sophomore’s third touchdown pass of the night.
After a primarily defensive third quarter that yielded no points, King once again brought the game’s focus back to offense. He rushed for his third touchdown of the night and finished the game with 65 yards on 16 carries.
The Eagles then tried for a two-point conversion to give them an eight-point lead. Their conversion attempt was stuffed by West Hall, and the lead was extended to only six points. That failed attempt turned out to be the deciding point of the game.
East Jackson’s defense held the Spartans on the subsequent third-down conversion try, and West Hall was forced to punt. East Jackson quickly began to take advantage of the situation, as it drove down the field to the 35-yard line.
The drive ended there as West Hall’s junior linebacker Ishmail Nuckles recovered an East Jackson fumble with 2:47 remaining in the game.
Shunquez Stephens then orchestrated what turned out to be a 65-yard drive to victory. The highlight of the drive occurred as East Jackson junior defensive lineman Michael Watson drug Stephens to the ground. With his knee close to the ground, Stephens managed to contort his body in order to find Gibson for a touchdown with just 24 seconds left on the clock.
East Jackson got the ball back with 1:29 left but its efforts came up short. Senior running back Zack Gilbert, the brightest spot on East Jackson’s offense, rushed several times to get the Eagles within possible field goal range, but the ball proved to be five yards too far away for freshman kicker Alvarado.
Stephens and the West Hall receiving corps finished with 312 passing yards and four touchdown receptions.
West Hall hopes to ride this one-game winning streak into next week where they will face region opponent Pickens, while East Jackson visits Fannin County to take on the Rebels.