Jaguars Win Impressively In Schools First-Ever Game

September 6, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

#6 Courtney Smith scores the first touchdown in South Alabama football history on a 60-yard reception late in the first quarter against Hargrave Academy. – Photo courtesy of Doug Roberts.

The Jags came out to play in their historic first game. Some would just be content to have glimpses of good play on such a historic day. The first set of recruits stepped on campus two months ago while transfers and walk-ons got here in January. It might have been asking a bit much for a team to come together without any returning leadership to play against a team such a Hargrave and dominate from the first snap. But Coach Jones, his staff and team had other plans.

The day was already exciting enough, but when news that Chris Fowler of ESPN College Gameday mentioned South Alabama’s first game, it sent the excitement and celebration even higher. While doing the run down of important stories in the opening weekend of college football, he said “We want to salute a couple of programs playing their very first game today, Old Dominion and South Alabama.” But this wasn’t the highpoint of the day by far. The true high point of celebration came later.

The Jaguars took a little stroll, the Jaguar Prowl, from their bus to the stadium through the student tailgating section, to much ovation from fans. Then a group of musicians from the marching band made the rounds in the parking lot at the stadium, entertaining all of the tailgating fans along their way.

Later before kickoff, the band took the field for thier pregame show where, again to much ovation, spelled out the script USA logo that was recognized immediately by most people in the stands. Once they finished their play, they paused for the national anthem and the U.S. Coast Guard flyover. They then took their place near the northeast corner awaiting the Jaguars entrance to the field.

President Gordon Moulton stood at midfield on the nice new Jaguar logo and thanked the students, the fans and the board of trustees. The team captains from both sides approached midfield for the coin toss which Hargrave won and elected to receive. So the choice of end zones to defend was left for the Jaguars to decide. It did not take long for them to decide to defend the south end zone either.

The band then began playing the fight song as the cheerleaders lead the team out onto the field with flags waving. As the Jaguars went to the sidelines, the cheerleaders remained spread out across the field with two Jaguar logos and flags for U S and A prouding waving them to the stadium.

The Jaguars finally got to line up for the opening kickoff to a cheering crowd and another loud cheer when they tackled the returner quickly. The Jaguar defense would hold Hargrave and force them to punt early. On a bad snap, the punter mishandled the ball allowing the Jaguar defense to close in and seemingly partially block the punt, which drew another loud cheer from the crowd. However, the cheer would turn to jeers when the officials announced USA was being penalized for roughing the kicker.

The Jaguar defense set the tone by holding Hargrave scoreless in the first half and forcing turnovers in the Tigers’ first two possessions. The Jags came close to scoring on a drive about midway through the first quarter, however Santuan McGee fumbled at the two yard line after a 22 yard run, turning the ball over.

With only seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Jaguars had the ball at their own 40 yard line. Gibbon dropped back and found an open Courtney Smith running a go route for a 60 yard touchdown on the left sideline for the first points for the Jaguars.

Shortly after the first score, Brandon Ross capped off a five play 24 yard possession with a one yard run with 12 minutes left in the opening half to extend the Jaguar lead to 13-0. Another promising drive with about five minutes left in the first half was cut short by an interception of Gibbons pass at the goal line.

At the end of the first half, the Jaguars had another opportunity to put points on the board but without any time outs, quarterback Nick Owen could not stop the clock to allow a field goal attempt as time expired.

Early in the second half, the Jags extended their lead further when Myles Gibbon scored on an 8 yard run. With the score at 20-0, observers were excited yet amazed at how well the Jaguars were playing.

However the shutout would not last as Hargrave finally found the endzone on a 16-yard run. The extra point was blocked by the Jaguars though to make the score 20-6. The Jaguars would respond with a 25 yard field goal by Chapuseaux with 2:39 left in the third quarter to make the score 23-6. The Tigers scored another touchdown on a 35 yard reception to cut the lead to ten points, 23-13.

However, the Jags would seal the game with a hard nosed Brandon Ross run for 22 yards, stretching out at the goal line for the touchdown, with 4:19 remaining in the game to reach the final score of South Alabama 30 – Hargrave 13.

But the true celebration came after the clock hit all zeroes, after the two teams shook hands. It happened when the players went into the stands to celebrate with the Jaguar fans with the band playing ‘Jaguar Pride’ and the Alma Mater.

Gibbon finished the game going 7-for-13 for 126 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nick Owens went 4-for-4 for 38 yards. Ross had 19 attempts for 139 yards and two touchdowns. McGee had nine carries for 58 yards with one lost fumble. Courtney Smith had five catches for 105 yards with 60 of them coming on the schools first touchdown.

Hargrave Academy’s leading rusher, Tahron Goods rushed seven times for 46 yards and a touchdown. Evan Ingram carried 9 times for 43 yards. Evan Ingram went 17-for27 with two interceptions and a touchdown. Dlapo Macarthy went 4-for-7 with an interception as well. Sean Farr caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

In total, the Jaguars had 29 rushes for 299 yards and went 11-for-17 passing for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While the Tigers ran 27 times for 133 yards and 21-for-34 for 238 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Justin Dunn lead the team with eight tackles followed by Charlie Higgenbotham and Zach Brownell both with seven.

Other notable stats: Punter Scott Garber punted once for 47 yards and pinned the Tigers near their own 10 yardline. Erling Riis returned 3 punts for 44 yards, including a 39 yard return to set up a Jaguar touchdown.

Coach Jones spoke about the game afterwords, “We challenged the kids this morning about making this a day to remember, and they did that,” he said. “Our kids played extremely hard, our staff coached extremely hard, and we would not have had that success today had the staff not done what they did and the players bought into the program. It’s as simple as that. The players did a great job today, and I’m really proud of them. We certainly have some things we can work on, but we can go back and correct those things. I’m very proud of them coming out – a bunch of new guys and a new team – and doing what they did today.”

Defensive coordinator Bill Clark spoke about the Jaguar defense, “We were tickled to death in the first half. It was one of those deals where you come in at halftime and you’re almost scared that the other shoe is going to drop because you know they’re going to make adjustments. To come out and really not know what they were going to do – we had a base idea that they had a lot of two-back runs in the first game – our guys really hounded them, and we had a bunch of takeaways. We came in at halftime really excited, and we told our guys it was zero to zero. We were disappointed in the second half because our goal is a shutout, and we know that’s a big goal. We know we’ve got some things to work on because we want to be really stingy, but there were a lot of good things tonight.”

Also Hargrave coach Robert Prunty spoke well of South Alabama’s effort, “The thing with our kids is that they enjoyed it and South Alabama is a class act. You can tell by how they’re putting their facilities in order – we were impressed with it. Coach Jones has this program in the right direction. We’ve played against other JV programs and you can tell that what coach Jones has going on here is a good thing. Their kids played hard and you can tell they’ve been in the weight room. It was a great performance by South Alabama.”

The game was truly one of historic value. South Alabama went all out to make sure it was just that. This was a storybook beginning to what should be a long and successful novel.