After Josey lost eight starters off last year’s offense, middle linebacker Leon McQuaker said he knew his team’s defense would have to come through in a big way Friday night.
The Eagles clamped down on Hephzibah in the second half, and the Josey offense used a big play late to upend Hephzibah, 21-18.
“We’ve practiced hard,” McQuaker said. “We’ve trained too hard to lose.”
The Eagles struggled on offense, mustering just 127 total yards. But Josey’s defense came up with a pair of big plays before Rod Taylor threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Bart Corley on third down with 1:02 remaining to cap a wild second-half comeback.
“We’re just glad to sneak out of here with a win,” Eagles coach John Noah said.
With its double-wing attack, Hephzibah scored three times in the second quarter. One of their touchdowns was a gift from Josey when punter Antawan Braddy recovered a bad snap over his head inside the 1. One play later, Hephzibah quarterback Chris Hall punched it in to stake the Rebels to an 18-7 lead.
“We got real tired in the second quarter. I told them at halftime we’ve got to play through being tired,” Noah said. “We knew coming in our defense was going to have to make big plays.”
Up 11 deep in the third quarter, the Rebels seemed to be in control until they lost three of their four fumbles in the final 18 minutes. The game turned in the third quarter when McQuaker scooped up a Hall fumble and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown.
“I’ve worked hard. I’ve trained hard,” said McQuaker, who recorded three fumble recoveries. “When I scored, that brought the team up.”
Josey’s defense held Hephzibah in check after halftime, allowing just 62 yards of offense the final two quarters.
The Rebels tried to mount a final drive and run the clock out, but they were forced to punt. Josey took possession just past midfield, and Taylor went to work. After completing a short pass and misfiring on second down, he found Corley breaking free for the go-ahead touchdown.
Josey 7 0 6 8 – 21
Hephzibah 0 18 0 0 – 18
J–Kejuan Turner 10 pass from Rod Taylor (Turner kick), 2:37
H–Marcus Smith 8 run (kick failed), 11:55
H–Willie Jones 7 run (run failed), 3:40
H–Chris Hall 1 run (kick failed), 2:05
J–Leon McQuaker 62 fumble recovery (kick failed), 5:23
J–Bart Corley 56 pass from Rod Taylor (Taylor run), 1:02
First Downs 5 10
Rushes-Yards 19-28 44-152
Passing Yards 99 3
Comp.-Att.-Int. 8-14-1 1-1-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 6-4
Punts-Avg. 4-37 3-22
Penalties-Yards 8-50 10-66
RUSHING–Josey: Tyler Ridley 3-(-7), Broderick Ross 3-8, Rod Taylor 6-(-17), Vontrez Andrews 6-69, Antawan Braddy 1-(-25). Hephzibah: Marcus Smith 16-71, Shilo Ulcena 5-53, Willie Jones 14-51, Chris Hall 6-(-32), Julian McFarland 2-0, Shawn Brown 1-9.
PASSING–Josey: Taylor 8-14-1 99. Hephzibah: Hall 1-1-0 3.
RECEIVING–Josey: Kejuan Turner 1-10, Juwan Tolbert 2-8, Bart Corley 4-84, Jabrie Dominquiz 1-(-3). Hephzibah: Ulcena 1-3.