Jacksonville held on for a 40-39 win over Anniston, but the Bulldogs had a chance to take its first lead of the game with two minutes remaining.
Quarterback Quint Dobbins hit DeMarcus Thomas for a touchdown to cut Jacksonville’s lead to one point. However, on the Bulldogs’ 2-point conversation attempt the quarterback was stopped 2 yards short of the end zone.
That ended Anniston’s final threat.
“It was a hard-fought battle, no doubt about it,” Smith said. “We figured they probably go for 2 and go for the win. They’re on the road and had the momentum so we figured that. It was just a great stop by our defense.”
Although the Jacksonville defense stopped Anniston with the game on the line, it struggled to slow down Dobbins through the air nearly the entire night. However, the Jacksonville offense kept piling up points, building a comfortable cushion heading into halftime.
While Dobbins threw two touchdowns to Quindarious Jackson in the first half, Jacksonville tailback Dominique Thomas was the reason for the Golden Eagles’ 27-12 lead heading into the break.
Thomas, a senior, already had compiled 197 of his 247 yards and scored three of his five touchdowns.
In addition, quarterback Jackson Bell hit Payton Sims for a score as well.
But when the teams came back on the field after intermission, the flow of the game changed quickly.
Anniston was on the board two minutes into the third quarter after DeMarcus Thomas returned the kickoff to the Golden Eagles 17-yard yard and Dobbins hit Qua Frazier for a touchdown pass three plays later.
With Jacksonville’s lead now down to 27-18, the Golden Eagles went on what was arguably their most important drive of the game two positions later. Using only Thomas and Bell on the ground, Jacksonville (5-1, 3-1 Class 4A, Region 5) traveled 60 yards on 12 plays to extend its lead to 34-18 on a Thomas touchdown.
“When people key on Dominique it opens things up for him,” Smith said. “They complement each other very well.”
Thomas added another touchdown to make it 40-18.
After that, Anniston (3-3, 1-3 Class 4A, Region 5) took control.
“We just decided we were going to do to things we normally do,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said. “We made too many mistakes early and defensively and we just didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Dobbins continued completing passes and hit DeMarcus Thomas for a score. After Tyler Johnson recovered a fumble for the Bulldogs on Jacksonville’s ensuing drive, Dobbins hit Frazier on a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Suddenly, it was 40-33.
“It goes to show that no lead is every safe in this region with the teams of this caliber,” Smith said. “Anniston got to clicking and hit some long passes and had players make plays. We weren’t in terrible position. When you have a team like Anniston, they’re able to make plays.”
Although Anniston’s ensuing drive, which was its last, was a 2-point conversion short of getting the win, it wasn’t because of a lack of play by Dobbins. The junior finished with 343 yards on 16-of-24 passing and five touchdowns. Jackson and Frazier each had two scores, and DeMarcus Thomas had one. Keviante Reyes recovered a fumble for the Bulldogs.
For Jacksonville, Bell had 107 yards on the ground. Elijah Cunningham and Sims both intercepted passes for the Golden Eagles.
Next week Anniston and Jacksonville continue region play as the Bulldogs travel to face Cherokee County and welcomes Lincoln to Golden Eagles Stadium.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star