The undefeated Jefferson Middle School Eagles finished the football season 8-0 and won the league championship 30-14 at home against Grace Christian on Thursday. They were named Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference champions.
A week earlier, the Eagles won the city championship in a 52-0 win over Robertsville Middle School.
That means the Eagles were city champions, league champions, and undefeated this year. That gave jubilant JMS fans a reason to celebrate as they tried to recount the last season like this. It’s the best in a long, long time, Jefferson Middle School Coach Brian Wilson said.
It was the second time this year that the Eagles beat the Grace Christian Rams.
JMS eighth-grade quarterback Jack Replogle ran for two touchdowns on Blankenship Field on Thursday and three two-point conversions.
The outcome wasn’t clear in the first half. Neither team scored in the first quarter. Special teams initially kept Jefferson Middle School in the game. Their first touchdown on offense wasn’t until late in the third quarter.
Grace Christian scored first. Replogle was intercepted by Kennedy Gore of the Rams near the end of the first quarter, and Grace Christian converted that turnover into a score. The Rams drove 74 yards in 3.5 minutes to score on a 23-yard run up the middle by Gore, giving the Rams a 6-0 lead at 5:31 in the second quarter. But Grace Christian was not able to add the two-point conversion when Isaiah Johnson of Jefferson Middle stopped Rams running back Taylor Shannon.
Jefferson Middle answered immediately with a kickoff returned for a touchdown by seventh-grader Jonathan Stewart. The Eagles took an 8-6 lead on their two-point conversion when Replogle ran into the center of the end zone after first scrambling right and evading Grace Christian defenders. The score was 8-6 in favor of Jefferson with 5:18 left in the first half.
But the Rams responded again on their next possession, driving 52 yards mostly on runs by Gore and Shannon. Shannon scored on a six-yard run up the left side of the field with 57.7 seconds remaining. He carried left again for the two-point conversion, and the score at halftime was 14-8, with Grace Christian in the lead. But the Rams didn’t score again.
Jefferson Middle regained the lead on the first play of the second half. Johnson pitched the ball to Replogle during the kickoff return, and Replogle carried it up the right side of the field for a touchdown. He then ran three yards for the two-point conversion to make it 16-14 in favor of the Eagles at 7:49 in the third quarter.
Jefferson forced Grace Christian to punt on its next possession, and Johnson again pitched on the return as he was being tackled. This time, he gave it to Stewart, who had a big gain. When combined with a penalty against the Rams, that pickup put the Eagles at the Grace Christian 38.
Jefferson scored several plays later, with Replogle again running for the touchdown and adding the two-point conversion on a quarterback keeper. It was the first offensive touchdown for the Eagles, and they led 22-14 at 3:32 in the third quarter.
Jefferson scored again on their next possession, a three-play, 36-yard drive. Jonathan Ellis carried it in around the right end from 31 yards out. The Eagles had been set up with great field possession on that drive with a return by Johnson that put the ball back at the Grace Christian 36, where the Rams had just been before punting. Oak Ridge had increased its lead to 30-14 with 5.5 seconds left in the third quarter.
The two-point conversion attempt by the Eagles failed, and neither team scored again.
Wilson said the Eagles were on defense for much of the first half. They only had five plays on offense in the second quarter. Still, it’s a bend-but-don’t-break defense, Wilson said.
“We were on the ropes in the first half,” he said. But, he added, “Our kids just believe. They are champions, and they play like it. They find a way to win.”
He was reluctant to cite specific players that stood out, saying all of them deserve credit. Wilson cited the team chemistry, the offensive and defensive line—he called it the best in a long time—and the very special athletes he coached. They are “ultimate competitors,” Wilson said.
Grace Christian Coach Bart Kareken said the two special teams touchdowns by Jefferson hurt. That was the margin of victory.
“We didn’t take care of two touchdowns, and that’s what we lost by,” Kareken said.
Football has three parts, he said: offense, defense, and special teams. The Rams moved the ball on offense, but they had a “few busts” on defense, and didn’t finish on special teams, he said.
Besides the two losses to Jefferson Middle, Grace Christian (5-3) also lost to Norris Middle School this year.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2015 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.