“They’re very, very much improved,” Spring Garden head coach Jason Howard said of Jacksonville Christian, adding that JCA returned all of last year’s backfield. “They’re as good a JCA team as I’ve seen in a long time. They’re a lot more versatile this year.”
Junior quarterback Daylon Brackett is the player the Panthers must watch when the Thunder has the ball. Brackett is a threat both running and passing. Against Cedar Bluff last week, Brackett rushed for 95 yards and had 256 yards passing, including three completions for touchdowns. His favorite targets have been Walker Messer, Tyler Morales and Kris Armprester. Brackett also booted a 19-yard field goal as his team scored 23 points in the first half against the Tigers then didn’t score again.
“He’s played well in all the game films that we’ve seen,” Howard said.
Coosa Christian proved to be a good choice for Spring Garden’s homecoming opponent last Friday. The Panthers rolled to the first five touchdowns of the night and eventually won 34-7.
“We were able to establish the running game pretty early,” Howard noted. “I thought Will (Ivey) called a great game offensively. The defense played really, really well. They were on top of everything that (Coosa Christian) had going on.”
Junior Matt Mullinax got the parade of scoring plays started on a 28-yard run with 7:04 to play in the first quarter. Spring Garden led 6-0 when the extra point attempt failed.
Late in the first quarter, Ivey, the Panthers’ senior quarterback, scored the first of his four touchdowns on a 1-yard sneak. Mullinax ran for a 2-point conversion and the Panthers led 14-0 with 41 seconds to go in the opening quarter.
As usual, Spring Garden’s ensuing kickoff was a squib kick. Austin Shell jarred the ball from a Coosa Christian player and Dawson Broome recovered for Spring Garden.
“That really was a huge play in the game at that point,” Howard said. “We sort of had them on the ropes and then we went right down, boom, scored right there and made it 21-0.”
Less than two minutes after the kickoff recovery, Ivey scramble into the end zone from three yards out and Hunter Bondie kicked the extra point for a 21-0 lead.
An interception by Ben Ivey, the first of two picks by the younger Ivey, put the ball in Spring Garden’s possession again with 9:36 left in the first half and set up his older brother’s third score. Will Ivey’s third touchdown came on a 1-yard sneak with 8:23 to play before intermission.
Ben Ivey then grabbed his second interception with 7:39 still to go in the half.
Howard said a big pass reception by Dalton Kerr, playing at less than 100 percent, gave the Panthers a chance at a field goal following Ivey’s second interception.
In the first half, Spring Garden (1-3, 1-2) had the ball five times, resulting in four touchdowns and a missed field goal.
On the first possession of the second half, the elder Ivey scored for the fourth time, this one on a 15-yard run. The extra point failed but the Panthers led 34-0. The Conquerors got their points in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
Mullinax led Spring Garden with 135 yards rushing. Kyle Reece ran for 70 yards. Will Ivey netted 60 yards rushing and Quintin Downey finished with 25 yards on the ground. Will Ivey completed a pair of passes. Kerr’s reception was good for 16 yards and Mullinax had a 14-yard catch.
On defense, Kris Holcomb, Corey Williams and Ben Ivey each made three tackles.