Jackson’s early bursts set tone in Wildcats’ opener
by Adam Carrington
acarrington@mdjonline.com
August 24, 2013 01:22 AM | 4226 views | 4 4 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 It didn’t take long for Wheeler to take control Friday night at Sprayberry, and Devontae Jackson was a big reason why. The senior tailback ran for 216 yards on three carries — all touchdowns — and the Wildcats won their season opener in commanding fashion.
<Br>Associated Press photo
 It didn’t take long for Wheeler to take control Friday night at Sprayberry, and Devontae Jackson was a big reason why. The senior tailback ran for 216 yards on three carries — all touchdowns — and the Wildcats won their season opener in commanding fashion.
Associated Press photo
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MARIETTA — Wheeler coach Mike Collins said earlier this week that he was anxious to see what kind of product he was going to have on the field this season.

It’s only one game into the season, but he learned that he has a first-string offense that can score quickly.

In their season opener Friday night at longtime rival Sprayberry, the Wildcats needed two plays or less to reach the end zone on all but one of their first-half possessions, built a 34-point halftime lead and preserved a 44-14 victory at Jim Frazier Stadium.

The 44 points marked Wheeler’s highest output against Sprayberry since it scored 63 in 1973. The Wildcats (1-0) lead 33-13 all-time in the series dating back to 1966.

Devontae Jackson had three carries for 216 yards for Wheeler, with all three touches going for touchdowns. When Sprayberry’s special teams pinned the Wildcats deep in their own territory twice in the first half, Jackson responded with a 93-yard touchdown run and a 97-yard burst at the start of the second quarter.

“We knew we were going to shock some people this year, but this was a shock to me,” said Wheeler quarterback Elijah Staley, a Mississippi State commitment who was 6-of-7 passing for 172 yards and three touchdowns.

Wheeler’s longest drive of the first half came as the game opened, when it needed five plays to score, capped by Jackson’s 26-yard run up the middle. The Wildcats’ remaining touchdown drives were two plays or less.

On the next possession, Staley hooked up with Harland Howell for a deep 55-yard score on the second play. After Wheeler opened each of its next two series with touchdowns runs of more than 90 years, Staley connected with Jacobi Green for a 37-yarder on the second play.

The Wildcats’ final score of the half also came on the second play, when Tabius Padgett caught a screen pass from Staley that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown.

“We came out focused early, but it’s still a long season,” Collins said. “We took care of the football, and that was crucial to the game. It happened to be one of those nights for us.”

Wheeler pulled its starters after the first half, and its only score of the second half came on a 28-yard field goal by Victor Alves.

While Sprayberry’s defense struggled to find answers, the Yellow Jackets were able to sustain drives offensively. Their final first-half drive was a 15-play touchdown drive that ended in Shane Young’s 1-yard touchdown run.

Sprayberry made it into Wheeler territory on two earlier drives, but it couldn’t capitalize.

The Yellow Jackets needed just two plays to score on their first drive of the second half. Young scrambled for 34-yard gain to put Sprayberry on the Wheeler 6, and Shane King finished off the drive on the next play.

“We obviously didn’t play Sprayberry football,” Yellow Jackets coach Billy Shackelford said. “Wheeler made plays and we didn’t. It was a combination of Wheeler playing well and us playing poorly.”

Young was 11-of-18 for 186 yards for Sprayberry and rushed for 82 on 13 carries.

Comments
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negativeneds
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August 27, 2013
Wow...with 'fans' like you, how would the Sprayberry program turn a corner? Did it occur to you that your team has played one game and you're already ragging? On a site that can be seen by the players? Did it also occur to you that Sprayberry is AAAAA and playing a AAAAAA team in Wheeler? And Wheeler is projected to have a very strong team this year? I sure wish the negative brats would find another hobby and let those who lend positive support, stick around.
Pull The Wool
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August 27, 2013
Okey Dokie Sunshine Pumper. If it is so great why are all the players transferring to Kell?
Move The Line
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August 25, 2013
Typical Sprayberry. Leave the starters in to score after the game is out of hand. I could see them going 0-10. It is so hard to be a Sprayberry fan these days.
B Johnson
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August 24, 2013
This is the BRAND of football Sprayberry plays year after year. That is why players in the district are moving to neighboring programs. Can't say I blame them.
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