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Hornet running game shines under Thursday Night Lights
Junior running back Johnathan Jackson throws a stiff arm on his way to the end zone during last Thursday night’s lopsided win over Southwest.
East Central 52
EAST CENTRAL -- Behind the Johnathan Jackson- and Javion Polk-led running game, the East Central Hornets dominated the Southwest Dragons last Thursday night in District 28-5A competition. The game was televised on CW35 as part of the Thursday Night Lights series of games. For East Central, the 52-21 victory over Southwest was the Hornets’ fourth win on Thursday Night Lights.
The Hornet defense, led throughout much of the night by junior Caid Franckowiak, helped set the tone early by forcing the Dragons into a three-and-out after receiving the game’s opening kickoff. The Hornet offense took over at its own 43-yard line following the Dragon kick, and quickly moved the ball against Southwest.
Senior fullback Justin Organ picked up the Hornets’ first of 22 first downs on the night with a great run up the middle. Senior quarterback Christian Jones then connected with senior Patrick Smith to move East Central to the Southwest 30-yard line. A couple of plays later, Jackson scored his first of two touchdowns on the night with a great run to the end zone, breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage to put 6 points on the board.
The Dragons got a big return on the ensuing kickoff, beginning their second drive of the game at the East Central 35-yard line. Southwest drove down to the Hornet 8, but a great defensive effort knocked the ball loose on a run over the left tackle, and East Central recovered the ball at its own 7-yard line.
The first play of the Hornets’ second drive resulted in a penalty that backed the team up 5 yards, but Polk took the handoff in the end zone and raced out to the 17-yard line for a little Hornet breathing room. Christian Jones connected with fellow senior Dustin Toscano to move the ball out across midfield, and Polk sprang a big run down to the Dragon 8-yard line. Polk, just a sophomore, later punched it into the end zone, and the lead was 12-0 with 3:01 to play in the first.
Southwest came back strong, however, taking just more than 90 seconds to score its first touchdown of the night. The point-after kick was good, and the score stood at 12-7 in favor of East Central.
As quickly as the Dragon touchdown came, it was nothing compared to the response East Central delivered. A short Southwest kickoff was fielded by senior Vernest Dotson and was returned to the Dragons’ 39-yard line. Jackson then needed just one play, throwing several stiff arms as he powered his way across the goal line. The drive took just 19 seconds off the clock, and East Central went on top 18-7. Toscano then took the handoff on an end-around and scored the 2-point conversion to make it a 20-7 game.
After trading a couple of possessions throughout most of the second quarter, the Hornets added 6 more to the board with 1:32 to play in the half. East Central began its drive from the Hornet 14-yard line, but quickly found itself at midfield thanks to another big run from Jackson. Senior Chris Armstrong, who has been out most of the season with an injury, returned to action, and quickly reminded Southwest what he is capable of. Armstrong ran around the right side of his offensive line, and sprinted 51 yards for the touchdown. Armstrong finished the night with three carries for 56 yards and the score.
Southwest tried to get something going through the air to close out the first half, but Franckowiak ended the Dragons’ drive with an interception around the Hornet 20, and East Central took a 26-7 advantage into halftime.
After taking the kickoff to start the second half, the Polk and Jackson show resumed. Polk had a big run to put the Hornets on the 21-yard line, and Jackson set the team up with a first-and-goal from the 2. Junior quarterback Jeremy Jones got the nod from there, and easily ran into the end zone for a 32-7 lead. Jackson ran in the 2-point conversion, and the score was 34-7 with 8:37 to play in the third.
The Hornets tacked on another touchdown with 1:01 to play in the third. Polk capped off the drive that nearly ended with an East Central fumble, as he ran it in from 3 yards out to make the score 40-7.
The Dragons scored on their next possession, throwing a pass into the end zone. The point-after kick made it 40-14, but time was certainly not a friend to Southwest. Things looked even more bleak for the Dragons as an onside kick was recovered by East Central, giving the Hornets a short field. The team took advantage of the field position, and eventually scored on another 3-yard Polk touchdown run.
The back-and-forth continued on the Dragons’ next possession as they scored again through the air on a nice pass into the back of the end zone. The Hornets were into clock-management mode though, and ate away a great deal of the clock before their next drive stalled at midfield.
Facing a fourth down from the Southwest 49-yard line, the Hornets elected to punt the ball away. Sophomore Wanya Ward was in to punt the ball away, but soon found himself with a different plan. As the Dragon defense got good penetration on the play, Ward stepped to his right, attempting to avoid being tackled and to possibly get off a rugby-style kick. The young kicker, who also plays receiver for the Hornets, found some daylight ahead of him. Ward followed the blocking of his fellow Hornets, and raced in for another East Central touchdown. When everything was said and done, it was a 52-21 win for the Hornets.
Jackson finished the game with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Polk had 17 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns. The Jones brothers completed six of nine passing attempts for 94 total yards. Smith was the leading receiver with 2 catches for 39 yards, and Toscano had 2 grabs for 32 yards. Organ and Ward each had a grab for 23 total yards.
The win lifts the Hornets to 5-2 on the year and 2-0 in district play. East Central will face its toughest opponent to date this Thursday, Oct. 25, as the Hornets travel to Cibolo to face the unbeaten Steele Knights. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on Thursday Night Lights.
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