It’s common to hear about a football team that possesses great home-field advantage.
But not every team is like the West Florida Jaguars, who are undefeated on the road this season and have now won back-to-back District 1-5A games in Panama City after a 21-18 win over Arnold on Friday night.
The Jags (4-4 overall, 2-1 district) seemed to overpower and outrun the Marlins, who had a chance to clinch a playoff berth win a win over West Florida.
Jaguars head coach Harry Lees was pleased with the result, as he saw his team’s rushing attack look stronger than at any point this season.
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“The last three games we’ve really taken off with rushing the ball,” Lees said. “We stayed patient and the kids ran hard. (Running a lot) isn’t what we are used to in the past, but at this point, if it is a win that is what we need.”
The Jags’ backfield showcased a “two-headed” beast with Marquise Ross (two TDs) and Jaelyn Allen (one TD) breaking tackles all night in the win.
“I thought the outside runs were working for us tonight,” Ross said. “We had to see what the defense was doing first, then we had to adjust.
“It’s good to get this district win. It gives us a lot of confidence. When we play on the road, we know we gotta represent for our school and play our hardest.”
Defensively, the Jaguars were challenged with stopping one of the area’s top recruits, QB Cody Saunders – who is committed to the University of West Virginia.
Saunders averages 190 passing yards per game, 106.8 rushing yards per game and a couple of touchdowns.
West Florida responded well to the challenge, sacking Saunders six times – three by Adarius McWilliams – and limiting Arnold’s big plays.
Though West Florida created a 14-3 lead at halftime, the Marlins surged in the second half to cut the lead close.
In the first drive of the fourth quarter, Saunders capped off an Arnold drive with a short TD run and the Marlins followed it up with a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 21-11.
With 2:18 to play, Saunders found Trever Kilcrease on a slant for a 5-yard TD to make it a three-point game.
The Jags recovered the onside kick, and pounded the ball with Allen and Ross before kneeling out the clock.
“We knew it was gonna be close, every game Arnold has played in has come down to the wire,” Lees said. “I’m so proud of our kids. Our defense played hard.”