LA Wildcats take loss to neighboring Jackson County

Emily Hammock/OCN photo

Livingston Academy’s Jaden Lawrence, #7, stretches for extra yardage in Friday’s game at Jackson County.

By Mac McLeod,

OCN Sports

When smaller schools take on larger schools in sports, it’s usually for a little extra money to help support the programs. In the case of last week’s Livingston Academy-Jackson County encounter, it was more a factor of both schools needing a close-by game and both, at the mid-point of the season, needing a win.

Only about a 30-minute drive apart, the game appeared a natural, with the biggest factor being Livingston is a 4A school and Jackson County 2A. Since both schools needed a game to fill out the schedule, it really didn’t matter and a closer overall look at the game on paper pitted a larger but far smaller and inexperienced team of Wildcats against a Jackson County team that was far better than its 1-5 record.

“Watching both teams on film earlier, I thought it would be a fairly close game,” Livingston coach Dale Flatt pointed out before the game in Gainesboro, “but now that it’s over, I see things that just prevented us from getting the job done. They (Jackson County) are a pretty big team up front, and they are mostly juniors and seniors. You could tell as the game went on that both of those were big factors.”

Going into the game, Livingston, halfway through a total rebuilding process with the graduation of its entire coaching staff and 17 seniors from a year ago, was still looking to break out of an 0-5 start that had only produced 30 points in those five games and had been shut out three times. At the same time, the Wildcats had allowed 203 points and had been hampered with a “continuous clock” in four games.

“We definitely have a lot to play for,” the coach continued, “but despite all that, there is progress being made. We’re much better tonight (before the game) than we were last week, and that goes for all the previous weeks. We keep getting better, we just had such a long way to go, and we have got to stop making bad mistakes. That has hurt us tremendously.”

Despite moving the ball near the Blue Devils’ goal at least four times during the night, the Wildcats again failed to put points on the board, and several drives were interrupted by costly 5-yard penalties.

“We have got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” assistant coach Noah King pointed out after the 21-0 loss. “In that first series, we gained six yards then got penalized five, then we moved again down inside their 20 and got another 5-yarder then a 10-yarder. Those mistakes just kill a drive.”

Actually, before the initial LA offensive drive, Jackson County took the opening kickoff and marched 65 yards on seven plays for the night’s first score, a one-yard plunge. The home team led 7-0 and were never headed.

A 15-yard penalty against Livingston was vital in that drive.

Showing tremendous improvement over the previous week, Livingston took the ensuing kickoff at the 35 and started a march of its own. Powered by the running of quarterback Brodey Coffee and nice gains from running backs Locklan Hammock and Nathan Cowgill, the Cats moved the ball to the JC 13 where a holding penalty moved them back 10. Three plays later it was fourth and 19 and the drive stopped on an incomplete pass.

“That really hurt,” Cowgill later pointed out. “We were moving the ball on just about every play, then all of a sudden, we’re in trouble and the drive ended. We can’t do that and expect to win. We had a good shot at it, and we didn’t get the job done. Give Jackson credit, they played hard, were in control on both sides of the ball, and won. We’ll go back and work on those things and see if we can get it straightened out.”

Jackson County’s second score came on a 73-yard drive that started early and lasted over six minutes.

With 2:23 remaining in the half, a 15-yard pass added seven more points to the board, and at the intermission, the home team led 14-0.

Livingston mounted a late charge in the quarter, and a dropped pass in the open could have easily resulted in a Wildcat score. On first and 10 at the Jackson 32, Coffee found Xander Cantrell wide open and put a perfect pass in the receiver’s hands – but he dropped it.

“It was a total lack of concentration on my part,” Cantrell later explained. “It was a perfect pass, I was wide open, unfortunately I was ready to run before I had a good grip on the ball.”

“That was a big play,” Coach Flatt pointed out. “It stopped our momentum. If we had scored, we would have been down by only seven at the half, but that’s part of the game. You shake it off, get up, and go on.”

Livingston had another good chance in the third frame when the Wildcats took the kickoff, marched all the way to the Jackson 7, consuming over 7 minutes off the clock, but the drive ended on a Coffee interception.

Jackson County scored its final touchdown with 3:37 remaining in the game on a fine 24-yard pass.

“There were a lot of fine moments for our team,” Coach Flatt added, “but we have got to score. We moved the ball well, we used the clock, our defense made some outstanding plays, but we didn’t score, and part of that was because of mistakes. Our goal now is to keep the players from getting down on themselves. It’s no time to give up. We’re making a lot of improvement, and we have to keep moving forward. We’re not disappointed, we’re just determined to get better.”

On the night, Coffee was LA’s leading rusher with 63 total yards while Hammock rolled up 36 and Cowgill 8. Cantrell caught one pass for 11 yards, Lawrence had one for 4, Cowgill pulled in three for 45, and Hammock had two receptions for 20.

Defensively, Cowgill had an outstanding night with a team leading 9 tackles aided by 7 from Lawrence and Trey Coleman. Daryon Hoover was strong from his inside line position with 5 tackles as did Hammock. Carson Parrott and Gage Hoffman each added 4, Will Brown, Seth Smith, and Parker Smith were credited with 3 each, and Braydon Storie collected one.

“Tonight, I really thought we should have won the game,” Hammock pointed out. “We moved the ball, our defense played really good, and although they were much bigger along the line, we had some good holes to run to. We just made mistakes at the wrong time and didn’t score. We’re getting better, and I really think the team wants to win. I love it.”

Livingston will be at Overall Field in Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium on Thursday for Homecoming against DeKalb County.