Jackson fell to Riverside 20-13 in a Main Street thriller in Game 1 of the playoffs Friday night.
The top-seeded Tigers tried to pull off a comeback attempt but narrowly failed as No. 1. 8 seeded generals defeated them in Jacksonville’s oldest rivalry.
More stories from our staff:
On the heels of their defensive clash about a month ago, the two teams battled it out for a spot in the Region 1-2M semi-finals.
With the win, Riverside advances to face Raines who beat Ed White 34-22 in another all-Duval match.
Here are three takeaways from the contest:
Gelsey’s flagship game inspires generals to win
The turning point of the game came midway through the fourth quarter. Riverside faced a fourth-down situation from Jackson’s half and decided to take a chance with their offense.
The Generals sent the ball to quarterback Devin Herring who was forced out of the pocket and to the left side of the field.
He threw a pass to second-year wide receiver Tae’shaun Gelsey who leapt into the air and secured the ball.
Gelsey was immediately overrun by the Tigers, but they couldn’t bring him down and he broke free for the game-sealing score for the Generals.
It was a needed score for Riverside after struggling to move the ball on offense for the majority of the game.
“I knew my team needed me at some point in the game,” Gelsey said when asked about his play. part-time, so I knew if I had an opportunity, I had to take it.”
Before the touchdown, the Tigers recovered from a two-point deficit to make it a one-point game. They had full momentum and we are putting the pressure on.
But the Generals never flinched and reversed their previous loss to Jackson in the regular season.
Both teams knew the defenses would have to stand tall. During their previous meeting, neither attack could really get the upper hand over the other.
But this game saw Riverside get ahead and stay ahead with a pick-six and strong defensive play from the Generals throughout the game.
When asked what was different this time around, senior De’Avary Weeks said it was adversity that pushed them to the top.
“A lot of adversity and a lot of people doubting us,” Weeks said after the game. “I told the guys we have to keep fighting, keep moving forward.”
Big Game Gaines, Jackson defense shows Tigers resilience
The Tigers showed the same fight Friday that propelled them to the region’s top seed.
Trailing 14-0 in the third quarter, they looked to Fred Gaines and their big run-blocking plays to turn the tide.
Gaines took a direct snap and followed his teammates through a huge hole to give Jackson his first points of the night in the third quarter.
Then he followed suit, blasting past defenders before bouncing a run down the right side of the field to the left for his second touchdown of the night.
Instead of scoring the extra point, Jackson opted to go for two but was stopped short of the goal line.
But still, the Tigers built momentum and their defense kept Riverside from increasing the score.
Jackson’s defense made several third saves in the second half to keep the Generals off the field, but their offense struggled to make the plays necessary to edge past the Generals.
On Jackson’s first game of final practice, quarterback King Johnson threw a bomb at Gaines to move the Tigers near midfield.
After stalling for subsequent games, they deployed a hook and ladder to pick up the yardage needed for a first try.
It looked like Jackson had just enough magic in the tank to pull off the comeback.
But time was not on their side and with seconds ticking off the clock, they sent the ball on fourth down.
It was a difficult end to the season, as many players and coaches were in shock.
As the sun sets on Jackson’s season, it’s hard not to think about how special it was. The Tigers won their first district championship in over a decade by defeating Raines at the Graveyard.
They picked up eight straight wins after losing their opener, never lost a regular season home game, and finished as the region’s top seed 1-2M.
After the game, head coach Christopher Foy struggled to determine what stood out most about the Tigers’ season.
“Man, I don’t know. Because every game was tough. And that’s the biggest blessing,” Foy said. “I mean, it’s been such a year that it’s hard to say. I know there were times when things weren’t going well for us. And kind of a way, we found a way It just went the other way tonight.
After the game, emotions were running high for Riverside. They rushed to celebrate with their group and scored a huge victory against their oldest rivals.
“I didn’t go lie. It feels good, man. Those are the circumstances we had at the start,” elder Zion Pittman said after the game. “We didn’t even have a pitch. We were playing in a park. Everyone was against us.
Since the Riverside field was being renovated earlier this season, they had to practice off campus. They have gone on a six-game losing streak after winning their first two games.
And yet, in head coach Antwan Nicholas’ first season, they secured a playoff win and advanced to the next round.
“We know we’re better than what we’ve played. Putting things together week by week, one step at a time,” Nicholas said after the game. “We knew the chemistry was coming for the offense and [our] the defense continued to steal and play bigmouth football. That’s the whole story. Passion and love of the game.”
Riverside will face Raines at the Graveyard next week in the Region 1-2M semi-finals.
Juston Lewis is a sports reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustonLewis_.
Sign up for First Coast Varsity’s weekly newsletter for more content.