After scoring four touchdowns and leading Austin to a 45-14 win over Hartselle on Friday night, running back Jevon Jackson faced a difficult question.
“Which one of your four touchdowns against Hartselle was your favorite?
With a grin that stretched from ear to ear, the junior running back went with his first touchdown. It was a 31-yard pass from Quincy Crittendon in the first quarter. The pass was a little long, and Jackson barely got a fingertip on it to keep it in the air so he could pull it in before going out of bounds.
“That took a lot of concentration,” Jackson said.
Concentration was the name of the game for Austin in the season opener for both teams. The Black Bears led 14-0 after one quarter, 21-7 at halftime and 31-7 after three quarters.
It was an impressive performance for any game, let alone a season opener.
“We played well and did some good things tonight, but we still have a long way to go to get better,” Austin coach Jeremy Perkins said. “We have a lot of room for improvement.”
Jackson finished the night with 205 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 14 carries. He had two receptions for 47 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown runs covered 12, 85 and 10 yards.
The defeat was a tough one for new Hartselle head coach Bo Culver. His team has just a few guys who had prominent roles in Hartselle’s 11-1 season last year.
“The bottom line is that they are a really good 7A team that will be in the playoffs,” Culver said. “Tonight, a lot of what didn’t go right tonight was on us. We just have to get better, and I believe we will.”
Friday’s result was a turnaround from last year’s meeting at Hartselle won by the Tigers, 24-17. That game was up for grabs until the final seconds.
Austin scored on its first drive on a 12-yard pass from Crittendon to Tre Shackelford. The nine plays covered 82 yards.
The Black Bears made it 14-0 on the next possession. That’s when Jackson made his great catch.
Hartselle cut the score to 14-7 on quarterback Cal George’s seven-yard run in the second quarter.
The back-breaker for Hartselle came with 28 seconds left in the first half when Crittendon connected with Shackelford on a 47-yard touchdown pass. The pass covered 25 yards and the final 22 was Shackelford out running the defenders.
Austin scored on its first possession of the third quarter on Jackson’s 22-yard run. Temo Vazquez’ 39-yard field goal made it 31-7.
Hartselle’s final touchdown came on George’s 27-yard pass to Izayah Fletcher. On Austin’s next play, Jackson raced 85 yards for his third touchdown. Six minutes later he had his fourth score to close out the scoring at 45-14.
Next up for Austin is a trip to Ogle Stadium next Friday to play Decatur (0-1). The Red Raiders lead the series 36-20, but the Black Bears have won the last four meetings by a combined score of 155-80.
Austin won last year, 60-45. The 2016 game went to three overtimes with Austin taking a 37-35 victory. The Black Bears got shutout wins in 2017, 49-0, and 2015, 9-0.
Hartselle hosts Brooks at J.P. Cain Stadium.