JACKSONVILLE — There’s an old adage about football being a game of inches. There’s also a saying about teams needing the ball to bounce their way sometimes.
On Friday night, Whitehouse benefited from both. In a meeting between perennial playoff contenders looking for their first wins, the Wildcats escaped with a heartstopping 22-21 win against Jacksonville in a District 14-4A opener at the Tomato Bowl.
When it came to the ball bouncing its way, Whitehouse scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:38 left when a blocked field goal bounced into Jackson Driggs’ hands and the senior receiver ran 17 yards untouched into the end zone.
When it came to football being a game of inches, Jacksonville scored with no time remaining to pull within 22-21, but missed the extra point after being pushed back five yards because of a false start.
No matter how you look at it, the Wildcats and Indians provided the crowd with an entertaining finish that both fan bases had been hoping for throughout the first month of the season.
Whitehouse (1-3, 1-0) came into the night giving up more than 60 points a game, but its defense stepped up to deliver a shutout in the first half. Jacksonville (0-4, 0-1) entered the game with only 255 yards rushing on the year, but surpassed that in one game.
Whitehouse quarterback Hunter Taylor finished 22 of 40 for 269 yards and two touchdowns, hitting junior Darrian Lee in the first quarter and Jonathan Aldridge in the fourth — during which the teams combined for 28 points after a low-scoring first three quarters.
Jacksonville junior running back Ladarius Session provided a big night on the ground, rushing for 167 yards on 20 carries. Indians quarterback Andrew Black passed for two scores — one being a 22-yarder to Darrell Minifee, who finished with eight catches for 103 yards — and rushed for another.
Whitehouse went into the break with a 7-0 lead, thanks to Lee hauling in a 3-yard score from Taylor with 6:46 left in the second quarter. Taylor, who passed for more than 1,200 yards in non-district, put the Wildcats up 15-8 with 9:32 to go in the fourth with a 22-yard pass to Aldridge.
Jacksonville, which missed a field goal and had another blocked in the first half, reached the scoreboard for the first time with 1:49 to go in the third quarter. The Indians scored their second touchdown with 5:32 left in the fourth, and then got the ball on Whitehouse’s 10 with :15 second left following a long punt return by Minifee and a facemask against the Wildcats.
Managing the clock well with short drop backs, Black threw incompletions on the Indians’ first three attempts and faced fourth down with only two seconds remaining. Black’s final attempt of the night landed into the hands of Kedarrius Buckingham to seemingly send the game into overtime, but Rodrigo Carreon’s extra-point attempt from 25 yards out drifted right.
Whitehouse 22, Jacksonville 21
At Tomato Bowl, Jacksonville
Whitehouse 0 7 0 15 — 22
Jacksonville 0 0 8 13 — 21
WHI — Darrian Lee 3 pass from HunterTaylor (Brandon Cottrell kick), 6:46
JAC — Darrell Minifee 22 pass from Andrew Black (Dadrian Franklin run), 1:49
WHI — Jonathan Aldridge 8 pass from Taylor (Dylan Cantrell pass from Taylor), 9:32
JAC — Black 2 run (Rodrigo Carreon kick), 5:32
WHI — Jackson Driggs 17 run (Cottrell kick), 2:38
JAC — Kedarrius Buckingham 10 pass from Black (kick failed), :00
First Downs 15 19
Rushes-Yards 18-75 41-246
Att.-Comp.-Int. 23-40-1 16-33-1
Passing Yards 274 144
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 7-65 6-45
Punts-Avg. 5-31.6 4-33
RUSHING — Whitehouse, Zen‘Derrion Haskins 9-76, Daimeyen Sanders 4-8, Matt Gipson 1-(-3), Hunter Taylor 4-(-6). Jacksonville, Ladarius Session 20-167, Andrew Black 9-33, Sha‘kil Mosely 6-18, Londedric Taylor 3-17, Darrell Minifee 2-6, Dexter Davis 1-5.
PASSING — Whitehouse, Taylor 23-40-1—274. Jacksonville, Black 16-33-1—144.
RECEIVING — Whitehouse, Jonathan Aldridge 6-71, Justin Bloom 3-54, Haskins 3-52, Dylan Cantrell 3-52, Juan Martinez 4-30, Sanders 2-11, Darrian Lee 1-3, Jared Raabe 1-1. Jacksonville, Minifee 8-103, Session 3-5, Taylor 2-20, Kedarrius Buckingham 2-16.