“We said, ‘Guys, we’ve asked you to be men, and you’re either going to handle this like someone that’s not ready to beat an over-the-mountain school, or you’re going to grow up like men.’ And that’s really the challenge we gave them,” Plunkett said. “Our kids made that decision. We didn’t really change anything. Our kids never doubted they were going to win this football game.”
After holding Mountain Brook on the first drive of the second half, the Rockets took the ball at their own 20, and cranked up the ground game for themselves. Jackson was a large part of that, but quarterback Hunter Crook also got into the action on a crucial series of downs in Spartan territory.
After a holding penalty put the Rockets back to second and 20 from the 40, Crook connected on consecutive passes to Tye Dunklin and Austin Hicks, then got the last yard and a half on a quarterback sneak.
Four plays later, Hicks swept around right end from the 5-yard line for a touchdown.
Gardendale held Mountain Brook again on the next possession, and took the ball over in Spartan territory after Jackson ran a punt back 35 yards to the opponents’ 41.
Jackson then ran the last four carries of the drive, finishing with a 1-yard charge for the go-ahead score with 10:40 left in the game.
The speedy junior then made his presence known on the Spartans’ subsequent drive, when he slammed wide receiver Hunter Branch with a bone-jarring tackle. Branch still made the catch and the first down, but three plays later he dropped an easy third-down catch that ended the drive.
Mountain Brook had one last chance late in the game, with a final drive that began at their own 25. They marched all the way down to the Rocket 9, helped by a defensive holding penalty along the way. But on fourth down and three at the 10, Jacob Carroll’s pass was intercepted by Jay Washington with 59 seconds left. It was Mountain Brook’s only turnover of the game, but it was the one that doomed their comeback chances.