Quitman's gameplan never calls for a constant dose of Franklin Jones.
But when the Panthers get into the game and the score is tight, coach Steve Bynum admits there is a tendency to keep relying on his senior quarterback. And for good reason. Jones continued his early season onslaught Friday night at Tiger Field in Vimville as he accounted for six touchdowns in Quitman's 55-30 win against host Southeast Lauderdale, which fell to 1-5.
"He's made a lot of teams look bad, including Meridian High," Southeast coach Charles Black said. "I watched the film of Meridian High and Quitman and he just trucked up and down the field on Meridian High.
"But we have to do a better job of tackling."
Whether it was the Tigers' poor tackling or Jones' explosiveness, he certainly trucked up and down Tiger Field on Friday. Sharing the spotlight with sophomore running back Josh Davis, Jones churned out 186 yards on 17 carries with four touchdowns. The star now has accounted for 991 yards rushing heading into Division 5-4A play next week.
"It's my offensive line," Jones said for his huge numbers. "I love my offensive line. They block so well for me and I love it. I will run it as much as I can behind them."
That is unless Bynum can find a way to keep him from running it in an effort to keep him healthy. One way Quitman, which improved to 5-1, can limit Jones' carries is to turn to Davis, who has filled in admirably for Jac'Quan Godette, who was lost for the season in the opener against Neshoba Central. Jones, who entered with 353 yards rushing, gashed the Tigers' defense for 142 yards on 17 carries. Quitman finished with 386 yards on 43 carries.
"He's starting to feel it and runs better and better each week," Bynum said of Davis. "He's just an asset to go along with QB 1, and heck you saw some of the runs he made tonight. By far, you can't teach that, that's just heart of a man right there."
Added Jones: "It's great. Coming in as a sophomore and running like that, all I do is tell him to just run hard."
Jones gave Quitman the lead for good when he scored from 20 yards out with 1:16 remaining in the first quarter. And he then added 7- and 6-yard scoring runs in the second quarter that pushed the Panthers' lead to 28-7.
However, the one mistake the Panthers made on offense helped spark Southeast's comeback. Taking over at their own 20 following a missed field goal attempt by Southeast, the Panthers handed the ball right back to the Tigers with a little more than a minute left before the half when Jones' pass was intercepted by Dylan Willis at the Quitman 31. The pass, which glanced off the Quitman receiver's hands, was the only incompletion Jones threw all night.
Southeast, though, capitalized as Andrew Black found Willis for a 5-yard touchdown on the final play of the half to pull the Tigers within 28-14. And after a field goal from Andrew Bernard to open the third quarter, the Tigers turned to the big play to stay close for awhile.
Andrew Black, who completed just 15 of 33 passes, threw for 358 yards with most of that damage going to Damion Willis. The long sophomore hauled in six passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns — 66 yards to tie the game at 7 in the first quarter, 72 yards to pull the Tigers within 35-24 in the third and 14 yards to make it 48-30 in the fourth.
"They work it and they worked it all summer and they've been hitting them all year and I expect us to continue to hit them," Charles Black said. "I'd just love to see us come and hit the other team a little better in the mouth on both sides of the ball.
"We came out a little different on offense tonight. We were in the gun, but we didn't do anything different on offense. It just wasn't under center and I think it gave us a little better edge."
It caused the Panthers' fits especially with division play beginning next week.
"We came in and were flat," Bynum said. "And take nothing away from them, they played hard, but we missed tackles and missed assignments. I felt like we took 2 or 3 steps back from where we had gotten to. I felt really good about us coming in, but we give up 30 points. We have to go back to work Monday and we're going to get after each other because we start division play and we can't afford to spot Northeast Lauderdale 30 for sure.
"By far, it was our worst ballgame of the year defensively. Special teams is still a little bit of a problem and those are mainly defensive guys, and those are my group of guys, so I guess that goes on the coach. I have to do some fixing come Monday."
One area they don't have to fix is Jones. In completing 7 of 8 passes, he threw for 165 yards and two more touchdowns, a 29-yarder to Tyrmdrick Parker to begin the scoring and then a 68-yarder to Toriano Howard that extended the lead to 48-24 early in the fourth. He also added his final touchdown run of 26 yards late in the third, a play that began with a Southest defender grasping his facemask in the backfield and ended with Jones breaking a handful of tackles on the way to the end zone.
"We really don't want him to run that much but when games get tight, you don't want it in anybody else's hands," Bynum added. "We'd love to get him out to where we wouldn't have to run him as much and Josh has helped a lot with that. But you have to dance with the girl that brought you and he's our date, so we're going to go with him."
Quitman's gameplan never calls for a constant dose of Franklin Jones.
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