JONESBORO — Jonesboro jumped into the 6A East conference championship race Friday.
The Hurricane earned only their second win ever in 33 tries against Pine Bluff using a ball-control offense to pull away for a 29-12 win at Cooksey-John’s Field.
Jonesboro improves to 4-2 overall and more importantly to 3-0 in the 6A East setting up a clash on the road next week with first place on the line at West Memphis (6-0, 3-0 6A East).
Normally known for a high-octane passing attack, Jonesboro turned to its rushing game to control the clock and the game.
The Hurricane rushed for 192 yards on 50 carries and only passed the ball 10 times.
Junior running back Albert George went for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries while sophomore quarterback Cross Jumper finished with 84 yards and a score on 23 carries.
Jonesboro’s defense also forced three turnovers on the night while the Hurricane offense committed none.
Hurricane punter Garrett Childers also played his role blasting kicks of 45, 50 and 61 yards switching field position and also blasting almost all of his kickoffs into the end zone.
“It was one of those games where it was a lunch pail game, you get your lunch pail and your hardhat and you go punch a clock and you go to work,” Jonesboro coach Randy Coleman said. “It’s not the prettiest thing, it’s not good looking but it’s effective and it was a little bit of a change of pace for what we normally are offensively but I thought we executed it really well.”
Coleman was also very proud of the way his defense held up against a talented Pine Bluff offense.
“Defensively we just continue to play lights out and I can’t say enough about Demarion Morton and the job he did on No. 6 Black,” he said. “You put him out there on an island a lot and ask him to play man to man and he played his tail off and I was just really proud of everybody. It seemed like there was always an answer.”
The Hurricane scored first to take the lead and got a touchdown just before halftime to grab a 13-12 advantage at the break.
The Hurricane got the ball to start the third quarter and pushed the lead to 16-12 when senior kicker Garrett Childers booted a 32-yard field goal with 8:01 to go in the period.
On the ensuing Pine Bluff possession, quarterback Shauwn Powell, playing in place of injured starter Tyler Foots, went to throw and pass and lost the football.
Jonesboro junior defensive end Jashaud Stewart recovered the loose ball setting his team up with great field position at the Pine Bluff eight-yard-line.
It only took one play for Jonesboro to find the end zone as junior running back Albert George ran over a defender on his way to an eight-yard touchdown run.
The extra point from Childers was good giving the Hurricane a 23-12 lead with 7:10 to go in the third.
Pine Bluff’s Powell dropped the ball again loading up for a pass on the next Zebra possession with Jonesboro’s Nate Light falling on it for a turnover.
While Jonesboro missed a field goal on the possession, the Hurricane took more time off the clock and kept the ball on their end of the field.
Jonesboro’s Bryant Guerra got his second turnover in as many weeks when he picked off a pass from Powell on the ensuing Zebra possession.
The interception came with 2:09 left in the third and was the final pass of the night the Zebras would throw.
Jonesboro’s defense kept the Zebras out of the end zone on three separate fourth quarter possessions and the Hurricane put the game away when Logan Orr powered his way in from four yards out on a toss right play with 1:26 to go in the game.
The extra point was blocked but it didn’t matter as Jonesboro took a 29-12 lead.
On the night for Pine Bluff (2-3-1, 2-1 6A East) Braylon Moody rushed for 165 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries while receiver Bekarion Black finished with four receptions with 107 yards and a touchdown.
All of Black’s catches came in the first half.
Powell was 8-for-18 through the air for Pine Bluff with 137 yards and one interception.
Getting the running game on track has been a priority for Jonesboro in the past few weeks.
Coleman was excited to see the way George and Jumper ran with the ball Friday night.
“Albert played really well last week, had the two touchdown runs and we gave him the offensive player of the week in our team meeting on Monday and we really kind of challenged him in front of the team that it was his job to take if he wanted to take it,” he said. “He went out and had a great week of practice and tonight it was one of those grind it out games where nothing was pretty.”
The teams traded possessions to open the game before the Hurricane struck first when Jumper on scored on a one-yard keeper with 4:37 left in the opening quarter.
Jonesboro went up 7-0 as Childers added the extra point.
Pine Bluff answered with two straight scores to go ahead 12-7.
Black caught a short screen pass from Powell and turned it into a 48-yard touchdown for the first Zebra score with 10:01 left in the second.
The extra point was no good as Jonesboro held the lead at 7-6.
Pine Bluff surged ahead 12-7 later in the second when Moody scored from four-yards out with 5:58 to go in the half.
Jonesboro had a response going on a 13-play, 85-yard scoring drive.
George finished off the drive by breaking a tackle on his way to an eight-yard touchdown run.
With an extra point from Childers, Jonesboro led 13-12 with 55 seconds remaining in the first half.
Getting a score just before the half was crucial for the Hurricane.
“It was huge because we knew that we were getting the ball to start the second half,” Coleman said.
Jonesboro turns its focus to unbeaten West Memphis who defeated Sylvan Hills 34-10 Friday to move to 3-0 in the 6A East.
With the Blue Devils being one of the last real longtime rivals remaining on the Hurricane schedule, Coleman said next Friday should be quite an atmosphere at Hamilton Shultz Field.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun going on the road to West Memphis with both of us sitting undefeated in conference,” he said. “The winner puts themselves in a really good position to be the frontrunner for a conference title or for a really good playoff seed so it’s going to be a big night. I’m pretty sure our band is going and I’m sure we’ll get a big crowd going from over here.”