South Pike knew that it would be challenged by a hungry Northeast Jones squad in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
But the Eagles stepped up to the challenge, getting five total touchdowns from quarterback Dontavious Turner in a 48-7 win over the Tigers.
“I thought that Dontavious (Turner) had a good night throwing the football,” South Pike head coach Brinson Wall said. “We got off to the great start and we had a couple of big plays by Kam (Reynolds) and Alex (Adams). I thought that we settled down after the first half and imposed our will on them in the second.
The game started out with the Eagles (12-0) and Tigers (4-8) trading possessions without producing any points.
The South Pike defense forced another NE Jones punt on the Tigers’ second drive, but the kick was downed at the Eagle 5-yard line.
Two penalties on South Pike put the Eagles behind the 8-ball as they faced a 1st and 14 at their own 1-yard line. Following a couple of short runs by Turner, it was a junior who flashed his skills on the ensuing play.
Reynolds took the handoff, bolted to the outside and down the sideline, out-running the Tigers for a 90-yard touchdown. Chris Royal added the 2-point conversion putting the hosts up 8-0 with 3:46 to go in the first quarter.
“I felt like I had to step up in a big game, it is the playoffs,” said Reynolds who finished with seven carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns to go along with three catches for 115 yards and two more scores. “It’s win or go home and I’m not ready to go home yet.”
Turner was also very pleased to see the offense begin to click on the second drive.
“On the first drive, we weren’t settled,” he said. “In our minds, we were all hyped, and we had to slow down a bit and have our minds focused on the game. After that we just went at it.”
The Tigers looked the answer, but the Eagles weren’t having any of it, forcing NE Jones to a 3-and-out.
On the first play of the next South Pike drive, the offense added more points to the board, this time through the air. Turner hooked up with Adams on a slant across the middle and after making a move on a member of the Tiger secondary, the senior receiver sprinted into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown reception. A successful 2-point conversion gave South Pike a 16-0 advantage.
About halfway through the second quarter, the Eagles once again found themselves backed up deep in their own territory. A pair of big runs from Kadarius Jackson set South Pike up with a 1st and 10 from their own 42. Turner then found Reynolds on a short pass and the 5-foot-5 back did the rest, slicing through the Tiger defense and into the end zone from 58 yards out making the score 22-0.
NE Jones put up its first points of the game with 2:45 left before halftime when Jo’i Jones scooped up a blocked punt and scored on 25-yard touchdown return. The extra point attempt by Jason Garcia was successful making the score 22-7.
South Pike received the ball first in the second half as Turner and the Eagles went back to work. The senior quarterback orchestrated a lengthy drive in which 9 of its 10 plays were rushes. The final was a 10-yard touchdown run by Turner increasing the Eagle lead to 28-7.
It took only two plays on the following South Pike possession to increase the lead as Turner connected with Reynolds on a 52-yard touchdown making the score 34-7 in favor of the Eagles with 5:25 to go in the third quarter.
Not even three minutes later, Turner tossed his fourth and final touchdown of the evening. He found Adams on another slant across the middle for a 79-yard scoring play giving South Pike the 40-7 advantage.
“I ran a slant and there was a good connection with the quarterback, and I made a play,” Adams said. Adams had two catches for 112 yards and two scores.
The Eagle defense kept feeding off of the offense’s success as NE Jones had no answer. Senior linebacker Angus Armstrong was proud of the consistently stellar play of the defense on the night.
“I’m happy because everybody played their part and did what they had to do,” he said. “They played their positions, and everything went as it was supposed to go.”
Following yet another 3-and-out by the South Pike defense, the Eagles got one more score early in the fourth quarter when Reynolds capped off his big night with a 26-yard touchdown run making the score 48-7.
The Eagle defense bent but did not break on the final drive, preventing the Tigers from adding any additional points.
South Pike will host Pass Christian Friday in the second round of the playoffs.