SPORTS >> Red Devils grab win
Leader sports editor
Jacksonville showed its good hands and seized a 31-21 victory over Vilonia in the home opener Friday night.
The Red Devils got a strong rushing effort from Keith Mosby to hang onto their lead late in the game, and they recovered three onside kicks, with two leading to points, as they took a non-conference victory over the Eagles at Jan Crow Stadium.
“We’re tickled to death to play at home, had a lot of good football going on out there tonight,” Coach Mark Whatley said. “The kids managed the game in some critical situations.”
Mosby, a running back/linebacker, rushed for 85 yards and two scores, and returned an interception for the first touchdown of the game.
“The coaches already told me I had to play both ways,” Mosby said. “I had to suck it up and had a good game.”
Vilonia closed within 24-21 on Zachary Mitchell’s 46-yard touchdown run with 7:51 left in the game. But the Eagles attempted their third onside kick of the night, grabby lineman Donald Harrison got his third recovery, and Jacksonville drove for Mosby’s decisive, 4-yard touchdown run with 3:01 left.
“I tried to make our offense understand that’s kind of a slap in your face when they give it to you at the 50 every time,” Whatley said of the onside kicks.
Whatley said Harrison isn’t part of the “hands” team he uses when expecting an onside kick, but Harrison said he was ready.
“They were trying desperately to get something going,” Harrison said. “I just knew I had to catch it.”
Thanks to the final onside kick, Jacksonville started at its 47 and marched for Mosby’s last score, with no play gaining more than 11 yards. Mosby carried on four straight plays to close out the drive and fought in for the touchdown after a Vilonia penalty halved the distance.
“Man, when you got your linemen doing every block, you’ve got the holes and there it is, the green in front of you,” Mosby said.
“We went to our big package out there,” Whatley said of the late-game offense. “They stepped up and played some football.”
The Red Devils (1-1) led 17-7 at halftime but the Eagles cut the lead with Zachary Mitchell’s 7-yard touchdown run with 3:26 left in the third quarter. Jacksonville responded with a 70-yard scoring drive featuring completions of 12, 10 and 9 yards by Logan Perry with Mosby bashing in from the 10 for his second score with 11:04 left in the game.
Vilonia (1-1) came back with a 65-yard scoring drive that ended when Mitchell broke free for a 46-yard run that pulled the Eagles within 24-21 with 7:51 to go. But Harrison grabbed the third onside kick and Jacksonville took command with its last touchdown drive.
“First home game, feels great,” Mosby said.
Things went badly for Vilonia on the fourth play of the game as quarterback Eric Ebmeyer, under pressure from defensive end Nick Nowden, tried to shovel off a pass that went directly into the hands of Mosby, who returned the interception 32 yards for the score with 10:09 left.
The teams traded fumbles, then Vilonia drove 53 yards and scored on Larry Lewis’ 5-yard run to tie it 7-7 with 3:16 left in the first quarter. Lewis had a 13-yard gain on the drive and Jacob Wiedmaier picked up 13 on a carry to give the Eagles first and goal at the 4.
Vilonia tried to surprise Jacksonville with its first onside kick, but Harrison made his first recovery for the Red Devils. That set up a 56-yard scoring drive capped when Price Eubanks kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it 10-7 with 11:53 left in the half.
Mosby had gains of 10, 7 and 6 yards during the possession and Perry completed a 16-yard first-down pass to D’Vone McClure.
Vilonia’s next possession ended when Griffin Nelson missed a 39-yard field goal low with 7:08 left.
With time running out in the half, Jacksonville went to its hurry-up offense. Mosby bounced outside for a 23-yard gain, Devon Featherston made a diving catch of Perry’s 14-yard pass for first and goal at the 7, and a play later Perry hit McClure on a 6-yard scoring pass and the 17-7 lead with 34 seconds left.
Jacksonville’s Jacarius Jordan intercepted Ebmeyer for Vilonia’s third turnover of the half and returned it 48 yards to the Eagles 14 with 4 seconds left. But Eubanks missed his 31-yard field goal attempt wide left as time ran out.
Perry finished 15 of 17 for 140 yards for the Red Devils while Mitchell led the Eagles with 101 rushing yards.