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Jackson football makes statement with back-to-back wins after Week 1

Through Jackson’s last two games, freshman running back Jaylon Hampton has recorded 273 rushing yards and back-to-back three touchdown games for a total of six off 33 carries. Photo by Jay Forness

After suffering a heartbreaking, nine-point loss to out-of-state Edwardsville (Illinois) in Week 1, the Jackson football team was able to win both of its games to follow, which last year’s Indians weren’t able to do.

Jackson recorded its first win of the young 2023 campaign with a 42-35 thriller over the reigning Class 5 State Champions Francis Howell.

Speaking of young, this was the same game where Indians first-year starting running back Jaylon Hampton recorded a hat trick by scoring three touchdowns. Hampton’s first score came in the second quarter to tie the game up at 14 with 16.8 seconds left until the first.

“In Week 1, we didn’t do a very good job executing, and I think we only averaged 3.7 yards per carry,” Indians senior right tackle Zane Coon said. “These last two weeks have been a lot better than that. The way we’re built, we can outlast teams and running the ball wears people down.”

Following a field goal by junior wide receiver Kai Crowe in the first half of the third quarter, Hampton recorded yet another touchdown run off a 13-yard run. This gave Jackson what was then its largest lead of the season at 10 points, 24-14.

Crowe added three more points for the Indians for a 27-14 lead with under three minutes remaining until the fourth quarter, but Francis Howell was able to answer with 23 seconds left in the third off a 6-yard touchdown run by Vikings senior quarterback Adam Shipley.

In the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, Francis Howell forced Jackson senior quarterback Adrian Fox to fumble the ball, which the Vikings recovered on the Indians own 13-yard line. Francis Howell’s Maddox Duncan scored on a 1-yard run a few plays later for the Vikings to go up 28-27 with 10 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in regulation.

Jackson was able to regain the lead a few minutes after, though, as junior running back Zach Crump scored his first touchdown of the season with a 19-yard run. The Indians also ran a successful two-point conversion play to take a 35-28 lead.

Shipley, who is committed to play Division-I baseball at Saint Louis, tied the game up with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter with a lengthy run. However, Jackson’s quarterback Fox helped the Indians reach the 8-yard line off a big run with a little over three minutes left in the game.

This set up Hampton to score his third and final touchdown run of the night for the eventual seven-point win, which avenged last season’s 41-14 road loss to Francis Howell.

Even though he didn’t reach the endzone against Francis Howell, Fox finished with 318 yards passing through the air and a team-high 149 yards on the ground. Hampton paced him with 124 rushing yards.

Defensively, senior defensive tackle Reid Landers recorded a sack, while fellow senior defensive lineman Hayden Wessell recorded 12 tackles as senior safety Gavin Guilliams led the unit with 14 total stops.

Jackson (2-1, 1-0 SEMO) followed this up by scoring the most points it has in two seasons (80 points on Aug. 27, 2022) with a commanding 63-38 win over SEMO Conference foe Farmington (3-1, 0-1).

While the Indians won by 25 points, the Knights once only trailed Jackson by 21-17 with around nine minutes to go in the first half.

While the Indians were able to dominate offensively, Farmington’s special team’s units showed off with three field goals, while the Knights also recovered one kickoff, one blocked punt and one muffed punt return.

Giving Jackson an early lead, though, and holding off Farmington from taking the lead was Fox, who recorded a career-high 361 passing yards in the game after hitting back-to-back 50-plus yard touchdown bombs to Kai Crowe and senior wide receiver Blayne Harris.

Fox also ended the game with a 72.7 completion percentage as he only played through three quarters due to the Indians marginal lead.

Crowe finished as the game’s leading receiver with 185 receiving yards off a team-high six catches and his one touchdown reception, while Harris also had a 100-yard receiving day with exactly 100 yards off four grabs.

To no one’s surprise, Hampton had another 100-yard day on the ground versus Farmington with a career-high 149 rushing yards off 14 carries while also scoring another three touchdown runs.

“I knew [being the starting running back as a freshman] was going to be a tough job, but I just come out here and try to do my best,” Hampton said. “I put in a lot of work — this is all I do right here. I live for football.”

The player who Hampton looks up to is in fact the starting running back for his favorite college football team Arkansas junior Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, who is on the watch list for the Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp awards.

“Arkansas is my favorite team, and I like the way he does things,” Jaylon said.

Also scoring three touchdowns on the ground was senior running back Jason Goodman, who opened the Francis Howell game with a touchdown. Crump also had one touchdown of his own versus the Knights.

Besides his ability to evade defenders, Hampton has been able to have this type of success by the play of his offensive line, which is led by future Southeast Missouri State Redhawk senior right tackle Zane Coon.

On the line with Coon are first-year starters in juniors Grant Lindsley, Brayden Smith, Jesse Keller and sophomore Brysen Wessell.

“We’ve done a really good job of correcting our mistakes from Week 1, and our coaches really helped with that,” Coon said.

Landers recorded a sack for the second-straight week on top of his eight tackles, while he also forced a fumble. Jackson junior inside linebacker Marcus Cutsinger also forced a fumble and came up with nine tackles, while Guilliams recovered one fumble and had eight stops as well.

Freshman cornerback Blayne Reagan led the Indians in tackles for the first time with a career-best 10 stops, while Wessell tied for second in tackles with Cutsinger at nine apiece.

The next game for the Indians is a road matchup with same team that ended their season last fall in rival Poplar Bluff (1-2, 1-0), which picked up its first victory of the season against Cape Central (1-2, 0-1) at 42-35 in overtime.

Jackson fell to the Mules by one point 21-20 in the Class 5 District 1 semifinals, which resulted in the Indians not winning a state playoff game for the first time since the 2015 season.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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