COVINGTON,Ga - Despite the early struggles, due to the effective Cousins run game, the Veterans Memorial Middle School football team was able to forge a fourth-quarter comeback to win the semi-final of the NewRock Football playoffs 24-22.
The Cardinals and the Generals played each other earlier this year in the regular season, with the Generals getting the upper hand 28-22. Veterans’ head coach Dante English learned plenty about Cousins run game.
“We learned from [the regular season] matchup that we had to stop #4 and #5,” English said. “We know we had to game plan for them. If we control them two, we control the game.”
Cousins’ strong duo would be the first to score in the semi-final matchup, capping off a strong drive on the ground with a 30-yard touchdown run by Jamarcus Presley. The touchdown would be followed by a successful two-point conversion by Anquez Cobb, to give the Cardinals an 8-0 lead with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.
The Veterans’ offense struggled to get going for the majority of the first half, as the offense led by quarterback Jordan Nolley could not get much against the Cousins’ defense.
With three minutes left in the second quarter, Presley would hand the ball off to Elijah Davis on a reverse, taking the end-around all the way from midfield in for the score, increasing the Cardinals’ lead 14-0 with the second big run play of the day for Cousins.
“We had to make adjustments [on defense], we saw that they were going inside and cutting up the middle,” English said. “We switched some of our players around and went with that.”
Just before halftime, the Generals’ offense was able to get into a groove.
Big throws from Nolley got the Veterans’ offense into the red zone, where Nolley would connect with wide receiver Katayvon Jefferies, who grabbed the ball in double coverage in the corner of the end zone. The big play from Nolley to Jefferies would shorten the Cousins’ lead to 14-8 after the Generals’ two-point conversion was successful.
The Generals were able to continue the momentum out of halftime, marching down the field on the opening drive of the second half.
After a 30-yard pass from Nolley to Jefferies, the Veterans’ quarterback would attempt to find his go-to target once again, only this time the ball was intercepted by Cobb, who would take the ball 92-yards for the pick-six, extending the Cardinals lead to 22-8.
After Veterans were able to take the kickoff to the Cousins’ 30-yard line, the Generals offense continued to move the ball well, not letting the turnover on the previous drive hinder them.
After a couple of big runs, the Generals found themselves inside the ten-yard line. Nolley would take a shot into the end zone on fourth down, finding Ja’Mical Richardson on the slant route for the touchdown, making the score 22-16.
After the Veterans’ defense was able to force a turnover on downs by Cousins, Nolley and the rest of the Generals offense would get the ball back with four minutes left in the game.
With the ball on their own 28-yard line, the Generals’ offense was able to piece together big runs to make their way into Cousins’ territory.
With the ball on the Cousins 40-yard line, the Generals would hand the ball off to offensive lineman Averion Dyer on fourth and one, taking the handoff 30-yards to the Cousins’ 10-yard line.
After Nolley missed the open man in the corner of the end zone, two penalties by the Veterans’ offense and two stops by the Cousins’ defense would put the Generals’ at a fourth and ten from the Cardinals' 11-yard line with only 43 seconds left.
On one of the biggest plays of the game, Nolley would connect with #13 for the 11-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 22-22 and giving the Veterans the chance to take the lead on the two-point conversion, with just 37 seconds left in the game
On the two-point conversion, Veterans would line up with two offensive linemen in the backfield, handing the ball off to Dyer once again, who would drive the ball in for two, giving the Generals the 24-22 lead and securing the late comeback with less than a minute left in the ballgame.
“We have had the big man package, and Dyer had asked for it,” English said. “He said it was time, and if he asked for it, I was going to give it to him, and he took it in.”
After a kickoff that put Cousins at midfield, Veterans was able to hold off the Cardinals offense one more time, ending the game and winning the semi-final matchup.
After a late fourth-quarter comeback by Veterans, the Generals will meet Clements Middle School in the NewRock Football Championship, Saturday, October 26.