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Central scrappy to finish

Central scrappy to finish
Central scrappy to finish

Obion Central’s Jacquis Williams (left) and Clint Jones both try to make the tackle during the Rebels’ 34-19 loss Thursday evening in Troy.
Obion Central did not go down without a fight.
Facing the grim prospects of a second consecutive winless season unless they could knock off the state’s sixth-ranked Class 4A team, the Rebels gamely battled Brighton before falling 34-19 in their 2008 finale Thursday night at Troy.
OC’s admirable effort against another on a long list of quality foes couldn’t prevent back-to-back 0-10 campaigns, however, the first such dubious distinction in the 48-year history of the Rebel football program.
It did, though, earn praise from first-year head coach Shawn Jackson, who not only lauded his team’s never-say-die attitude but its character as well.
“I’ll tell you what, a lot of teams would’ve just mailed it in tonight, especially after falling behind four touchdowns in the second half,” Jackson said afterward. “I knew ours wouldn’t though. I know we ended up 0-10, but nobody in America coached a better group of kids than I coached this year.
“I don’t care what the records say. This is a bunch of winners for the way they’ve hung in there during some awfully-difficult times.”
For two-and-a-half quarters Thursday, only a gritty effort by a much-maligned Central defense kept Brighton from running away and hiding.
The Cardinals did lead 27-0 at the 6:19 mark after Chris Bradley had taken a short swing pass from Danny Potter and turned it into a 76-yard touchdown. That margin could’ve been considerably wider, however, if not for interceptions by Blake Boyd, Patrick Minnick and Jonathan Keeling, and a big sack by Hunter Schumate that pushed the Redbirds out of scoring territory late in the first half.
Its offense having struggled miserably until then with three Jackson Yeager interceptions and a minus-17 sum in the total yardage department, OC finally got its act in gear midway through the third stanza.
Yeager, who’d thrown nine straight incompletions at one point and had completed more passes to Brighton than his Rebel teammates at the half, hit Patrick Haskins on a post-corner route for a 67-yard touchdown to jump-start the county locals’ aerial attack.
Central then recovered Dalton Shannon’s onside kick and was in the endzone a second time after five plays when Yeager threw to Jacob Fulbright for a 21-yard score with 3:36 left in the third quarter to get within 27-13.
Perhaps the play that killed OC’s ultimate comeback hopes — and certainly the one that robbed the Rebels of their momentum — came after they’d held the visitors and were again inside the Brighton redzone.
A Yeager pass bounced off its intended target just as the receiver was hit — or maybe beforehand — with Bradley snagging the catch-turned-interception at the Brighton 20. The Cards then took that turnover and marched 75 yards in 11 plays, with Potter throwing to Damien Terry for a 24-yard TD to cap the Redbirds’ most sustained drive.
“I thought our guy got interfered with,” Jackson said of the pick that set up Brighton’s clinching score. “That was a two-touchdown swing there and, if we get in, who knows?”
Obion Central again didn’t fold, however, and took just two snaps to match the Cardinals’ touchdown as Haskins went deep and Yeager hit him in stride for a 62-yard six-pointer with still half the fourth quarter left.
The Rebels got the ball back twice more but never seriously threatened again.
Bradley had accounted for three of Brighton’s first four scores, hitting paydirt via a 36-yard interception return, a 38-yard run and the aforementioned 76-yard pass play. The Redbirds’ opening tally came on Joey Terry’s eight-yard run.
Jackson said his troops would spend little time dwelling on the winless campaign, too, turning their attention immediately to the 2009 season on Monday.
“We’ll have a little ceremony on the practice field. We’ll take every game tape and we’ll dig a hole and we’ll bury them and every thing about this season. Then we’ll go to work getting ready for next year,” Jackson claimed.
“We’re going to really get after them in the weight room and we’re going to work them like they’ve never been worked. The kids are hungry and they want to get better. They want to be part of the group who turns things around here. And I want to be the guy who leads them.”
The game was the last in an OCCHS uniform for nine seniors, including Yeager, Schumate, Keeling, Josh Gray, Austin Hoskins, Austin Hopper, Mark Kissell, Jerry Garcia and Zach Elliott. Hunter Calhoun, a three-year starter, did not dress after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last week.
GAME NOTES: Haskins finished with seven catches for 191 yards and ended the year with 53 grabs for 927 yards and 11 TDs. He is just a junior but is expected to be switched to quarterback next season, a position he played occasionally both this year and as a sophomore. … Yeager, in his only varsity season after not playing as a sophomore and a junior, ended up with 1,991 yards passing and 16 touchdowns. He was intercepted 17 times. … The 15-point final margin represented Central’s second-closest game of the year. Only a 19-6 setback vs. Union City was more competitive.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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