Photo: Richey Miller, clearchoicephoto.com
The smile on Fayetteville football coach Daryl Patton’s face said it all Friday after his Bulldogs persevered to pull off a 34-24 victory over the Jefferson City (Mo.) Jays at Harmon Field, despite an uncharacteristically sloppy performance.
“There were mistakes we’re going to have to correct,” Patton said. “But there are some areas where we played much better than we did in our opening game. We improved in areas, and as long as we keep improving I think we’re going to be a salty. We’ll be a team that can be very dangerous at the end of the season.”
The Bulldogs had not played since their season-opening win over Warren on Sept. 2, and looked a bit rusty. Fayetteville survived three fumbles and 11 penalties for 75 yards in losses to move to 2-0 on the season.
“You know to have so many mistakes and to give a very good football team that many gifts, it just feels great to get this win,” Patton said. “We’re going to look at the film and clean up our mistakes and keep moving on.”
Fayetteville senior quarterback Mitch Marshall completed 21 of 33 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. C.J. O’Grady caught 4 passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns, while Jordan Dennis made 9 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Brayden Cook chewed up the Jays on the ground, rushing for 133 yards on 23 carries.
Jays coach Ted LePage liked the way his squad performed other than early in the first quarter when a fumble and an interception allowed Fayetteville to take a 14-0 lead.
“We gave them a big cushion in the first quarter,” LePage said. “Our inexperience was showing on the road. It was hard to overcome that, but I like how we kept working and fighting right to the very end. They never quit. We have some grit.”
Jays quarterback Gabe Marcantonio completed 21 of 31 passes for 167 yards and an interception, while rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Elijah Pittman rushed 19 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Bulldog outside linebacker Miles Taliaferro recovered the Jay’s fumble at Fayetteville 40-yard line to set up the Bulldogs first touchdown, a 25-yard middle screen from Marshall to Jordan Dennis with 6:00 remaining in the first quarter.
On the Jay’s next possession, strong safety Dre Greenlaw picked off Marcantonio and returned the interception 63 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 Fayetteville lead with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
But, the tables quickly turned on the Bulldogs when Jays recovered a botched hand-off attempt, and two plays later Marcantonio raced into the end zone to cut Fayetteville’s lead to 14-7 with 1:49 remaining in the first frame.
Cal Conway kicked field goals of 35 and 37 yards for the Bulldogs in the second quarter, while J.T. Bohlken connected on a 26-yarder for the Jays.
A third-quarter fumbled punt by Fayetteville gave Jeff City a short field, and Pittman’s one-yard plunge threatened the Bulldogs at 20-17 with 8:31 in the corner.
A big Fayetteville fourth-and-1 stop, keyed by Zack Akers and Quincy Rowe, at the Bulldogs’ 27 stopped a threat and ignited a 73-yard Bulldog drive, capped by O’Grady’s first touchdown reception, extending the lead to 27-17.
A Bulldog fumble inside their own 5, allowed the Jays to move within 27-24 with 6:55 to play on Marcantonio’s two-yard touchdown run.
But Fayetteville promptly answered, marching 67 yards in 10 plays to post the final 34-24 margin on O’Grady’s second touchdown catch.
Senior Chase Turnbull suffered a knee injury, but Patton did not know its extent immediately after the game.
The Bulldogs travel to Muskogee, Okla. (0-2) at 7 p.m. on Friday, before opening Class 7A-West play on Sept. 27 at Van Buren.
Score By Quarters
FAY — Dennis 25 yard pass from Marshall, 6:00 (Conway kick good).
FAY — Greenlaw 63 yard interception return, 4:29 (Fagg kick good).
JEFF — Marcantonio 12 yard run, 1:49 (Bohlken kick good).
JEFF — Bohlken 26 yard FG, 7:32.
FAY — Conway 35 yard FG, 3:59.
FAY — Conway 37 yard FG, 1:35.
JEFF — Pittman 1 yard run (Bohlken kick good), 8:31.
FAY —O’Grady 15 yard pass from Marshall (Fagg kick good), 1:53.
JEFF — Marcantonio 1 yard run (Bohlken kick good), 6:55.
FAY — O’Grady 11 yard pass from Marshall (Conway kick good), 1:59.
Rushing: Cook 23-133, Marshall 4-(-11), Dennis 1-15, Tyson 4-7.
Passing: Marshall 21 of 33 for 269 yards
Receiving: Rapert 2-30, Armstrong 1-23, Cook 2-24, Jones 2-72, Dennis 9-70, O’Grady 4-50
Rushing: Marcantonio 21-115, Pittman 19-83, McMillian 5-(-6)
Passing: Marcantonio 21-31-167 yards, 1 INT
Receiving: Moorma 2-10, Pittman 5-34, Dodson 5-84, Williams 7-33, Holland 2-7
* Statistics are unofficial