By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
HOMEWOOD — It took while for Mortimer Jordan to get its engines running smoothly.
But once they got into high gear, the Blue Devils used their size and depth advantage to score three times in the third quarter, turning a 2-point John Carroll Catholic lead into a 32-14 victory Thursday night My68 television's “Thursday Night Lights” game of the week.
Down 14-12 late in the third quarter with the Cavaliers driving deep in Jordan territory, the Devils squelched the threat when Spencer Crane intercepted a Riley Mara pass and ran it back to the Jordan 16. Quarterback Devlin Hodges then engineered an 84-yard drive over 2½ minutes, helped by 20 yards in back-to-back John Carroll penalties.
Landon Smith put the Devils ahead for good when he went up the middle, freezing the Cavs defenders with a stutter-step move and then darting through an opening for a 19-yard touchdown.
A minute and a half later after a Cavaliers three-and-out, Hodges took matters into his own hands when he found an off-tackle seam and ran 37 yards for the score, putting Jordan ahead 26-14 with 8:44 left in the game.
It was the third rushing touchdown of the night for Hodges, who has verbally committed to play his college ball at Samford, just a couple of miles down Lakeshore Drive from Thursday's contest. He finished things off with a 19-yard scoring toss to Trey Peters late in the game.
Hodges' passing numbers of 7-for-19 with two interceptions (one on the first play of the game) and 169 yards weren't earth-shattering, but he made up for that with the ground game: 14 rushes for 135 yards, just shy of 10 yards per carry.
Jordan (3-2) moved out to an early 12-0 lead on Hodges' first two scores: a 4-yard run in the last minute of the first quarter, and a 35-yard dash midway through the second period that was punctuated by a spin move that shook off a defender. The 2-point conversions on both scores came up short.
John Carroll (1-4) came back shortly thereafter, taking advantage of a Devils mistake when they were ruled to have touched the ball on a put return that the Cavs recovered on the 16-yard line; running back Jelani Bender put the home team on the scoreboard with a 6-yard charge up the middle.
Late in the first half, the Cavs marched 72 yards in six quick plays, set up by a 32-yard pass from Mara to Miller Parker and capped off on the next play when Mara found Mitchell Byrd on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 23.5 seconds before halftime.
Jordan's defense stiffened to start the second half, stopping John Carroll for losses on six of the first seven plays. But the Cavs found their offensive momentum again before Crane's interception brought the drive to a screeching halt.
The second-half response was just what first-year Devils' coach Dusty Goode was looking for, especially on defense. Linebacker Yakeim Green stepped up for two quarterback sacks to go with a first-half blocked punt. Lineman Matthew Childers recorded a sack, another tackle for loss and an assist on the first three plays after intermission, and linebacker Wesley Cooper led the Jordan defense with 12 solo tackles. Zach Thrift added 10 tackles.
“They came out and did exactly what we wanted them to do,” Goode said. “Cooper and Yakeim are seniors, and even though they're old heads, they know that we're trying to change the culture of what we are doing.”
Bender led the John Carroll ground game with 106 yards on 23 carries. Jordan held the Cavaliers' air attack to just 97 yards, with Mara going 7-for-18 with one interception before being knocked out with an injury on Green's second sack with 8:23 left in the game.
It's the second time in as many appearances that Goode has coached a team to victory on My68's Thursday-night game. He previously led Dora to a blowout win over Corner two seasons ago.
The Blue Devils return to Class 5A Region 6 play next week as they travel to Hayden.