If all the old beliefs about how football is a game of momentum ever needed any evidence, Pleasant Grove’s 30-19 win over host Mortimer Jordan on Friday would be Exhibit A.
After driving down field in short order for a score on the opening drive of the game, the Blue Devils bogged down and the Spartans took command, scoring three times in the second quarter and then hanging on in the second half for the victory.
Meanwhile, Pleasant Grove bottled up the Devils’ ground game, and sent quarterback Devlin Hodges scrambling around in his backfield for dear life. Hodges fumbled on two straight plays in the second possession of the game, the second of which turned over to Spartan linebacker DeMarco Johnson to squelch a scoring threat.
Pleasant Grove, which suffered through a 1-9 season in 2011 after the April tornadoes decimated the community, looked nothing like last year’s squad when they asserted themselves in the second period. On the second play after forcing Jordan to turn the ball over on downs to end the first quarter, quarterback Jake Sloan found Aaron Williams over the middle for a 64-yard scoring strike.
Hodges again fumbled on a bad snap in Jordan’s next drive, and this time Sloan used the running game to his advantage. He ran on five of the drive’s seven plays, and scored on a 4-yard plunge up the middle.
Unforced penalties also hurt the Devils throughout, with a personal foul during a Pleasant Grove possession late in the first half moving the ball to the Devils 21. Charles Buchannon’s 16-yard run set up Travon Key for a 5-yard touchdown, and the Spartans took a 22-7 lead to halftime.
“They got confidence built up against us,” Jordan coach Greg Watts said. “That hurt.”
Jordan’s Zac Thrift recovered a fumble on the return of the opening kickoff of the second half, but could do nothing with it. Pleasant Grove took over on downs at their own 17 and marched down field — 35 yards in Devils penalties helped — to the Jordan 9-yard line. But two false-start penalties and a bad snap for a 20-yard loss stalled out that drive.
With just under six minutes left in the third quarter, the Devils mounted a long drive from its own 25, and started to show a momentum change of its own as Hodges started to find his favorite receiver, Logan Motte, with consistency. Three catches for 50 yards got Jordan down to the Spartan 6 before Hodges was sacked for a 14-yard loss. Two plays and one encroachment penalty later, though, Hodges tossed to Motte in the end zone.
Caleb Gandy’s extra-point attempt clanked off the left upright, leaving Jordan down 22-13 and needing two scores to take the lead.
One of those scores came on the next possession, when Motte made a diving catch of a Hodges pass at the edge of the end zone for a 21-yard score. Gandy’s extra point was wide left to make the score 22-19.
But the drive that might have sealed Jordan’s comeback win stalled out in Spartan territory, hurt all the more when Motte dived for another catch just short of the goal line. Not only did he miss, his ankle turned under his body, and he came up limping.
Pleasant Grove drove for a game-ending touchdown by Buchannon from 10 yards out.
Mistakes of all sorts plagued the Devils, including tackling technique, penalties and play-clock management. Jordan had to burn a time out with the clock stopped at the beginning of the fourth quarter, then two more times in the next five minutes, all because they couldn’t get the play off before the 25-second clock was about to expire.
“I was disappointed. That [the penalties and play management] is just discipline, and that’s my fault,” Watts said. “But they were gunning for Hodges, and our line couldn’t handle the pressure. They weren’t respecting our outside run, and that hurt our inside run.”
Hodges finished with 170 yards passing on 13 completions in 25 attempts, with two touchdowns — both to Motte, who had 10 catches for the night for 137 yards before his injury.
Motte said after that game that his injury was diagnosed as a high sprain, and that he should be back for next Friday’s game against Pinson Valley.
Wesley Cooper tallied seven tackles. Brothers Dontress and Yakeim Green had six each, with Dontress adding a fumble recovery. Sean Morro also had six tackles.