JACKSON -- After furiously digging itself out of a hole, the opportunity was there Friday for Westside to complete a huge comeback against Jackson. But the Seminoles’ final two offensive drives stalled in the game’s final six minutes as Westside suffered its first loss of the season 31-29.
Westside (5-1 overall) is tied for second place in GHSA Region 2-AAA with Central while Jackson (4-1 overall, 3-0 in the region) and Peach County (5-1, 4-0) are undefeated in region play.
Westside, which trailed 18-0 less than five minutes into the game, chipped away at the Jackson advantage before taking a 29-25 lead with 8:10 to play on a Savion Knowlton run. Despite Knowlton’s 133 rushing yards and three touchdowns, it wasn’t enough. The Red Devils bounced right back after Westside’s late score.
Jackson executed a handful of quick passes, the big one being a 30-yarder from quarterback Shaderious Crowder to Antavius Grier, to set up a 30-yard strike to Ny’J Smith, who tormented the Westside secondary with four catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
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Westside had a pair of chances to retake the lead, only to come up short. A failed fake punt resulted in an incomplete pass. But after the Seminoles’ defense came up with a stop, Westside had a chance. After a Donta Pate run on fourth down kept the last-ditch drive alive, Knowlton’s deep pass down the middle on third down from his own 26-yard line was picked off by Smith, giving him a big night on both sides of the ball.
The Seminoles did little to help themselves early. A pair of turnovers set up two Red Devils scores. Two plays after Knowlton fumbled the game’s first snap from scrimmage, Crowder went 17 yards up the middle for a touchdown. A long 70-yard pass from Crowder to Smith made it 12-0. Kemon Smith added to the misery, running back a Knowlton pass 42 yards for an 18-0 Jackson lead with 7:21 to go in the first quarter.
But Westside didn’t fade. Leaning on the running of Knowlton and quick passes to receivers Steve Dolphus and Gerimie Mitchell, the Seminoles gained some offensive traction. After a Blaine Halvorson field goal from 22 yards out got Westside on the board early in the second, the Seminoles took advantage of strong field position and got into the end zone on touchdown runs of 14 and 18 yards by Knowlton. Jackson answered with a 2-yard run by Grier to lead 25-16 at the half.
Westside drew even closer thanks to Knowlton, even if he didn’t get the score. He slipped his way through the Jackson defense on a 57-yard scramble. Mitchell came on as the quarterback in Westside’s “wildcat” formation, and he took the ball in from 25 yards out, trimming the Jackson lead to 25-22.