Jets’ comeback falls short against T.W. Andrews in ‘crazy’ season opener

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 2/27/21

SILER CITY — After a disappointing 2-9 season in 2019, Jordan-Matthews’ main goal for this year was simply to be competitive.

It’s clear they’re taking that goal …

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Jets’ comeback falls short against T.W. Andrews in ‘crazy’ season opener

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SILER CITY — After a disappointing 2-9 season in 2019, Jordan-Matthews’ main goal for this year was simply to be competitive.

It’s clear they’re taking that goal seriously.

Jordan-Matthews opened up its football season with a home loss to the T.W. Andrews Red Raiders, 34-26, on Thursday. But while this game’s result is getting thrown into the loss column, there was plenty to be excited about for the Jets, who came back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game and were a play or two away from sending it to overtime.

“Just super proud of the kids, man,” said Sam Spencer, the Jets’ second-year head coach. “It’s the best effort I’ve seen since I’ve been at Jordan-Matthews … What a crazy game.”

To set the stage, with 9:27 to play in the fourth quarter, T.W. Andrews scored a defensive touchdown after a snap sailed over the head of Jets’ senior quarterback Xavier Woods at the J-M 21-yard-line, with players on both teams fighting for it as it rolled into the end zone — where a Red Raiders defender hopped on it for six.

That play made it 26-12 in favor of T.W. Andrews, capping off the Red Raiders’ 26-0 run and making it a two-touchdown ballgame after the Jets held a 12-0 lead in the first half.

Jordan-Matthews appeared deflated.

Enter Eral Jones.

The senior — who plays both defensive end and tight end — made three massive plays on both sides of the ball to get his team back into it.

One: After the Red Raiders’ second defensive touchdown, the Jets went three-and-out and punted to T.W. Andrews’ 31-yard-line. Two plays later, Jones stripped the Red Raiders’ quarterback on a pass attempt and J-M senior wide receiver/defensive back Jayden Davis recovered at the 22-yard-line.

Two: On the very next play, Woods rolled to his right and fired to the end zone, finding a wide-open Jones for a 22-yard score. The Jets couldn’t get the two-point conversion, but it put them within one possession at 26-18 with 6:23 left to play.

Three: On the next T.W. Andrews drive, after a recovered onside kick and a few decent runs, the Red Raiders were in Jordan-Matthews’ territory and knocking on the door of the red zone at the 24-yard-line. Then, T.W. Andrews’ center snapped a low ball that rolled right under the quarterback’s legs. Jones was there to scoop the ball up and run 76 yards for a touchdown. After a Thompson run to the right for a two-point conversion, the game was tied at 26.

“Eral Jones, man, that kid played a heck of a freaking game,” said Spencer. “He looked like he was the best player on the field.”

The Red Raiders scored on a 34-yard touchdown pass on the next drive after blown coverage by the Jets and got the two-point conversion to make it an eight-point game.

Down 34-26 with 59 seconds left and the Jets driving, Jordan-Matthews took a shot to the end zone from T.W. Andrews’ 30-yard-line, but the pass went right off of the hands of an open Calvin Schwartz, a junior wide receiver/safety.

That pass would be the Jets’ best remaining chance to tie the game, as Woods would be sacked on two of the next three plays, turning the ball over on downs and closing out the game.

Throughout the night, Jordan-Matthews’ interior offensive line struggled against the size of T.W. Andrews’ defensive line, causing major issues in the passing game and even leading to the huge hit on a carry by running back Jacquez Thompson, which resulted in a fumble that the Red Raiders returned for a touchdown to give them a 14-12 lead in the third quarter.

“We’ve got to be better in the middle on the offensive line. Just keep working our base stuff,” said Spencer. “(Woods was) running for his life. Obviously, they were huge up front and we’re not a big team up front.”

Woods was in his first game back from a devastating left knee injury that he suffered in practice after the first game of last season where he dislocated his knee and tore his ACL, MCL and LCL. Spencer called it “the worst knee injury I’ve ever seen.”

That scare from 17 months ago didn’t seem to hinder Woods’ movement, as he scrambled well all night, working to extend and create plays with his legs.

“(I thought about the injury) some, but once I took my first hit and I finally started running on it, I kind of felt like I was getting it out of my mind,” he said. “I’m still getting it out of my mind a bit, but once I get my confidence back, I’ll be just fine.

While he completed 50% of his passes (6-for-12), Woods and Schwartz struggled to create any sort of connection. Most of the time, when Woods tried to get the ball down the field to Schwartz, the ball would be dropped, overthrown or knocked away by a defensive back.

Woods targeted his favorite receiver eight times on the night, but Schwartz was only able to reel in three of them (38%) for 23 yards.

“We’ve just got to make a connection and work on it in practice. And the more we keep working on it, it’ll get better in the game,” said Woods.

Defensively, the Jets allowed just three touchdowns, had four fumble recoveries, two blocked punts and a defensive touchdown of their own. Thompson, who also had a good night running the ball, led the defense with 10 tackles, including six tackles for loss.

“We did well getting to them in the backfield defensively and creating some havoc back there,” said Spencer. “We covered well for the most part. We got lost in coverage down there on that end on that last score, but it’s the first game with no scrimmage, so the biggest thing though is that we didn’t quit. We kept fighting and gave ourselves a chance.”

It may have been a loss for the Jets in the end, but this is the type of game they can build off of. And even though it felt like a heartbreaker, Spencer couldn’t help but sound hopeful.

“Last year we had nine losses on the record, but every one of them ended in a running clock, it was a 42-point spread … but it’s fun to come out here and have a chance and be competitive,” said Spencer. “Tonight was a big step for Jordan-Matthews football going forward.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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