Indians find N. Jackson too tough
E. Limestone suffers 1st loss
By Brooke Milam
STEVENSON — The East Limestone Indians were not wide-eyed as they stood huddled around head coach Jeff Pugh midfield after a disappointing 24-7 loss to the top-ranked Class 4A team in the state Friday night at R.D. Hicks Stadium.
Most held their heads down, but a first-hand glimpse of the Chiefs taught the Indians a few things about themselves, too.
“North Jackson is definitely one of the best teams in the state,” Pugh told his team. “But we are, too. You make sure you see those (North Jackson) black jerseys again in the playoffs.”
East Limestone (5-1, 3-1 in 4A, Region 8) suffered its first loss of the season, while North Jackson (5-0, 4-0) remained undefeated with the win. The two teams have battled for the Region 8 title the past seven years, but will not meet again until the state semifinals, if both get that far.
Both teams still have undefeated Madison County left to play in Region 8. East Limestone will face the Tigers on Oct. 19, and North Jackson will play Madison County on Oct. 26.
North Jackson coach Mark Rose said the Indians were as impressive a group as he has seen in the highly hyped region matchup.
“It’s as good an East Limestone team as has ever stepped on the field with us,” Rose said.
East Limestone had its chance to serve notice early. On their opening drive, the Indians drove to the 3-yard line and went for the score on fourth-and-goal. Senior quarterback Chad Dewitt was stopped after a 1-yard gain. The 74-yard drive ate up the first six minutes of the contest.
“We thought if we spread them out, we could get them on the veer, and that’s my fault,” Pugh said. “We could have had the momentum right there.”
That series, Rose and Pugh agreed, defined the game.
“This game was about our defense,” Rose said.
East Limestone continued to move the ball in the game, but managed only 94 rushing yards from its usually dominant ground attack. East Limestone had needed its best rushing game and more to compete with the Chiefs.
“We knew we had to come over here and play almost mistake-free to win,” Pugh said.
And even though North Jackson converted just one East Limestone turnover to points, a pair of lost fumbles and a late interception wore on the Indians’ confidence.
“They’re kids, and they feed off enthusiasm from each other and from the crowd,” Pugh said.
North Jackson went up 3-0 on a 37-yard field goal by Christoffer Stoevring with eight seconds left in the first quarter.
Quarterback Zack Stewart’s 14-yard touchdown run 4:52 before halftime put the Chiefs ahead 10-0.
It was all the points the North Jackson, which was averaging 43 points a game, could muster in the first half.
“We knew 10 points wasn’t enough,” Rose said. “Some teams you can score what you want and still win, but this wasn’t some teams; this was East Limestone.”
East Limestone held North Jackson scoreless in the third quarter. Ron Gary upped the Chiefs’ lead to 17-0 early in the fourth quarter, finishing a drive that began in the third quarter when North Jackson recovered an East Limestone fumble on the East Limestone 34-yard line.
East Limestone’s lone score came with 3:47 left to play when Dewitt ran 11 yards into the end zone standing up.
North Jackson tacked on its final touchdown on Gary’s 25-yard touchdown run with 1:24 left.
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