WALNUT GROVE — The Cedar Shoals Jaguars took advantage of short fields and aggressive first down play calling to dispatch the Walnut Grove Warriors 59-0 in the final game of the regular high school football season.
Cedar Shoals (7-3 overall, 3-2 Region 8-AAAAA) won the coin toss but chose to defer the option to the second half. Preston Little fumbled the opening kickoff, recovered by Cedar Shoals at the 20-yard line. After two false start penalties, Jerdavian Colbert ran for 29 yards up the middle of the field before capping off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
A couple of possessions later after trading interceptions on back-to-back plays, Jaylan Rusher completed a pass to Jaiden Williams along the near sideline for a 34-yard touchdown reception. A missed PAT gave Cedar Shoals a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
On the Jaguars’ first play of the possession, Colbert ran behind the left side of his offensive line for a 39-yard touchdown, bouncing outside while waiting for the play to develop. Colbert found a hole near the numbers and broke a couple of tackles to score. Rusher rolled left out of the pocket and found Williams on a slow-developing crossing route for the 2-point conversion.
One possession later, Rusher completed a screen pass to Williams in the slot just over the outstretched hands of the defensive back, who gambled on intercepting the pass. The Warriors were playing in man coverage without deep safety help, allowing Williams to run 48 yards untouched into the end zone to take a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Two minutes later, Rusher pulled the handoff on the run-pass option and broke through the middle of the defensive line. Rusher beat a couple of pursuing defenders in a foot race to the pylon for the 74-yard touchdown run.
After recovering a Walnut Grove fumble, Colbert picked up 5 yards on the ground to set up William Fang’s 37-yard field goal.
With a little under three minutes remaining in the first half, Walnut Grove strung together its best drive of the game. Skyler Jones picked up 12 yards on second-and-11 to move the chains for the first time. Kyler Head completed a quick pass to Jack Calhoun, and Brett Peeler caught a jump pass out of the backfield.
Head lofted a long pass to a couple of waiting green jerseys, setting up the Warriors’ only red zone play of the game. Chad Walden was wrapped up in the backfield for a loss of 2 yards before officials ruled the ball came loose. Cedar Shoals recovered the fumble and took a knee to end the first half leading 38-0.
The Warriors’ final drive of the first half epitomized what was a sloppy 24 minutes punctuated by explosive plays. Walnut Grove amassed minus 16 rushing yards, held to no gain or a loss on 15 of 22 rushing attempts.
Cedar Shoals turned the ball over early in the first quarter when Jake Smith’s punt bounced into a Jaguar coverage team member and again in the second quarter after Little recovered a Colbert fumble in the red zone. Cedar Shoals committed five pre-snap penalties in their nine first-half possessions.
Caleb Allen ran up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, Jadarreian Edwards broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown run, and Cedar Shoals tacked on an 11-yard run as the running clock expired in the fourth quarter.
Stars of the Game
Cedar Shoals running back Colbert broke open the game with a couple of long touchdown runs, using a decisive first cut to change direction and burst through holes. Colbert was elusive in tight spaces and fast in open spaces.
Play of the Game
Late in the third quarter, Walnut Grove punter Jake Smith struck his best punt of the game, giving the ball just enough hang time to allow gunner Skyler Jones to lay a square hit on the punt returner, not allowing any gain on the return.
Cedar Shoals awaits its opponent in the state playoffs, while Walnut Grove will look to regroup heading into the 2020 season.