Jets experience turbulent week, lose big to conference powerhouses

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/14/21

SILER CITY — Saying it’s been a rough week for Jets football may be putting it lightly.

After a fairly positive start to the season — an eight-point home loss to T.W. Andrews …

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Jets experience turbulent week, lose big to conference powerhouses

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SILER CITY — Saying it’s been a rough week for Jets football may be putting it lightly.

After a fairly positive start to the season — an eight-point home loss to T.W. Andrews that featured a fourth-quarter comeback to tie it at 26 before falling, 34-26 — the Jets have since taken a nosedive against two of the best 2A teams in the state.

Jordan-Matthews lost a road shutout, 49-0, to Eastern Randolph on Monday night. Monday games are becoming increasingly more common in high school football this season, often playing host to rescheduled games for teams dealing with coronavirus-related quarantines like the Wildcats.

Then, just four nights later on Friday, the Jets found themselves unable to recover from another massive deficit against the unbeaten Randleman Tigers, falling 56-6 at home to push their record to 0-3 on the season.

In five days, Jordan-Matthews lost two games by a combined 105-6 score.

“We had to turn around and play two top-10 teams four days apart,” Jordan-Matthews Head Coach Sam Spencer said. “Lucky us. All because somebody else had COVID issues, so we got punished.”

Spencer said that in a week like this one, staying healthy “was a big concern, but for the most part, we did.”

MaxPreps has Randleman (8) and Eastern Randolph (24) ranked as two of the top-25 2A schools in the state. The teams’ statement wins over Jordan-Matthews this week were clear indicators those rankings aren’t flukes.

The Jets went down 14-0 early against the Tigers after Randleman bulldozed its way into the end zone on two of the team’s first three drives. But on the first play of the Tigers’ fourth drive, with 58 seconds left in the first quarter, senior quarterback Harrison Moffit threw an interception to Jets’ junior safety Calvin Schwartz, who returned it to his team’s 44-yard-line.

In a perfect embodiment of the game as a whole, Jordan-Matthews’ first two plays of the next drive would be a nine-yard run by senior quarterback Xavier Woods, followed by an eight-yard sack on Woods. Two plays later, the Jets punted.

Nearly every time Jordan-Matthews did something positive, a negative play or two would always be waiting right around the corner. One step forward, two steps back.

It would only get uglier.

After three more touchdowns by Randleman in the second quarter, the score was 35-0 with 46 seconds left in the half. And then, in a baffling decision given the situation, the Tigers decided to try an onside kick. They recovered it.

One play later, Moffitt threw a 29-yard dime for a touchdown and Randleman took a 42-0 halftime lead into the locker room.

“I thought it was horses--t,” Spencer said. “You can quote that. I thought it was nonsense. Not a fan. Not a fan of the head coach over there. I don’t care if he knows that.”

Spencer cited a pre-game incident where he claims he overheard Randleman’s head coach, Shane Timmons, speaking to the officials about the Jets’ tendency to “blatantly cut lead blockers.” In other words, intentionally take out the legs of defenders, which could lead to injury.

“We don’t teach that, it’s not true,” Spencer said. “It happens every now and again, that’s football. But to be sitting there telling the referees that it’s blatant means you’re telling him that we coach it that way and that’s bulls--t.”

Despite the clear frustration by Spencer and other players — both about the questionable decisions by Randleman and the game as a whole — the sideline never appeared to give in.

Even in the second half, with the Tigers up 49-0 and the clock continually running — essentially the NCHSAA’s “mercy rule” — coaches on Jordan-Matthews’ sideline were seen trying to keep players’ spirits high and keep them engaged in the game. There was no visible bickering between players or staff members, either.

“The coaching staff impressed me,” Spencer said. “It’s real easy to get negative and start blaming, but the coaching staff did a good job of keeping guys positive. That’s the biggest thing with the team was the positivity, even though things kind of got away from us.”

However, on the field, the same things that were issues in the season-opener against T.W. Andrews also presented problems on Friday.

The offensive line was the most glaring issue, as Woods had little time to throw or run, was sacked multiple times and had a few low snaps that severely impacted plays — with Woods sometimes having to fall on the ball immediately, wasting a down and losing yards.

Jets’ star running back Jacquez Thompson also rarely had time to get anything going on the carries he received.

“(The offensive line) is our biggest concern,” Spencer said. “The eligibility issue hit us bad. We had over 20 ineligible players, but it hit us badly on the o-line. … We’re kind of banged up, too. The o-line’s a concern, but they’re working hard every week and doing what we ask them to do and it’s just got to come down to execution.”

As was the case with T.W. Andrews, Jordan-Matthews struggled against the Tigers’ physicality up front, along with the size and power of Randleman’s sophomore running back Amarion Moton, who looks like a smaller version of Tennessee Titans’ running back Derrick Henry on the field.

While there are a plethora of issues that will need to be fixed after a rocky week, Spencer said he remained impressed with Thompson — a 2019 all-conference linebacker — and senior defensive end/tight end Eral Jones, who combined for 16 tackles, 10 from Thompson.

“Eral Jones and Jacquez Thompson really stuck out,” said Spencer. “Their effort doesn’t change no matter what the score or the situation is. All they say is ‘Yes, sir’ and go play like hell.”

To start the fourth quarter, Jordan-Matthews drove down the field on the back of Thompson, who started the drive with a 24-yard run to the Randleman 31-yard line. The next play, Thompson took it to the house on a run to the left side. It was called back for holding.

A couple of plays later, however, Woods ran it into the end zone for a 25-yard score on a quarterback keeper. With 7:53 left in the game, they had finally gotten on the board. It was 56-6.

While a run like that appeared to be meaningless — and in terms of the outcome, it was — it further emphasized the mentality of this team: don’t worry about what happened earlier in the game, just focus on the next play.

“Before every game, I’ll have a coaches’ meeting and I’ll say ‘Next play, next play. Just coach the next play,’” Spencer said. “We can’t ask the players to focus on the next play if we’re not.”

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

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