John Essex stumbles after first game success

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

Nothing looked the same on Friday night for John Essex High School. Last week, the Hornets snapped a streak that spanned more than two decades by beating Marengo High School. This weekend, against American Christian Academy, the Hornets looked nothing like the dominant team of a week ago, losing 49-18 to the Patriots.

Head coach Pierre Goode summed it up pretty well with more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

With his team struggling and referees throwing penalty flags all over the field, Goode looked at the scoreboard and mumbled, "I don’t care what happened. Let’s get this one over with… Our guys didn’t come to play."

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And possibly nothing summed it up better than when, at the start of the third quarter, the PA announcer began calling for the chain gang &045;&045; the group of people who carry the yard sticks to keep up with first downs.

That chain gang never came back &045;&045; apparently quitting after the first half with their home standing Hornets trailing 36-6.

John Essex scored its only touchdown of the first half when Dorian Murphy rushed for the team’s first score.

Meanwhile, ACA didn’t let up the entire first half. Leading 14-6 after the first quarter, Patriots’ running back Jesse Ochocki broke free from a handful of Hornet defenders and sprinted 68 yards to put ACA up 21-6.

Things didn’t get any better for John Essex, either. On the next possession, the Hornets snapped the ball three times and lost a total of four yards on the three plays. But it was the fourth and final snap of the possession that took any hope away from John Essex.

The Hornets lined up at their own 25 yard line and the long snap sailed 15 yards over the punter’s head into the ACA endzone. John Essex fell on the ball and took a safety, putting the Patriots up 23-6.

After kicking off to ACA after the safety, it took the visitors only two plays to get back in the endzone for another touchdown. The PAT was blocked, but ACA had built an insurmountable 29-6 lead at that point.

They added one more touchdown in the final seconds of the first half when John Essex fumbled near midfield. A personal foul face-mask on the next play gave ACA the ball on the eight-yard-line, and Ochocki scored again &045;&045; this time from the one-yard-line.

When Goode and his team stumbled into the locker room, the chain gang wasn’t the only thing lost. A window inside the locker room crashed during the break.

In the second half, John Essex did find its way into the endzone on two occasions.

On their most inspired drive of the game, running back Jame Bryant had runs of 15 and 32 yards and scored on a one-yard dive with eight seconds left in the third quarter to make the score 43-12.

Then, with just over three minutes left in the game, Bryant added another touchdown from eight yards out. That was the last time John Essex would score, and Goode believes his team’s struggles began long before the kick-off on Friday night.

Though dealing with those discipline problems may have cost John Essex on Friday night, that is exactly the reason ACA head coach Stephen Hooks believes Goode has the Hornets headed in the right direction.

Offensively, the Hornets (1-1) were led by Bryant, who rushed for 102 yards and two TDs. Murphy had 65 yards and one TD, while quarterback Curtis Whigham ran for 32 yards.

On defense, Bryan Edwards and Demetric Edwards both had 15 tackles. Johnny Gracie had 12 stops in the game and two sacks, while Murphy had eight tackles and one fumble recovery.

Next week, the Hornets will face Carrollton in Pickens County. Carrollton lost to A.L. Johnson 20-12 on Friday.