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Chase Starling ran for two touchdowns, and picked up 81 yards on 17 carries for the night. RECORD PHOTO/JOHN FEW

Jets deny Austin late chance to win, completes perfect record over region foes

MADISON — James Clemens, the Class 7A, Region 4 champ, denied Austin a late chance to win Thursday night in a 27-24 victory over the Black Bears (6-3, 4-3).

The Jets (7-2, 7-0) had already secured their spot in the playoffs, but the win gave James Clemens an untarnished record against their region foes — with 14 straight wins over two seasons.

The Jets took an early 14-0 lead on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Connor Cantrell to Manny Sanders and an 8-yard touchdown run by Collin Malone. Austin responded with a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Crittendon to wide receiver Tre Shackleford to make it 14-7. James Clemens then drove 97 yards and scored with a run by Chase Starling to make it 21-7 at the half.

Austin capitalized on its first drive of the second half with Crittendon finding Shackleford again for an 8-yard touchdown to make it 21-14. James Clemens answered with a 9-yard scoring run by Starling for a 13-point lead. The Black Bears’ Crittendon then launched an 80-yard touchdown to Jabari Brown to make it 27-21 on the next play.

In the fourth quarter, Austin drove all the way down to the Jets’ 14-yard line before settling for a field goal that made it 27-24 with 3:50 left. James Clemens nearly ran out the game clock on its ensuing possession but ended up giving Austin one more chance. That 57-yard pass was intercepted by Jon Granger, securing the win for James Clemens.

The Jets racked up 479 total yards. Starling ran for two touchdowns, and picked up 81 yards on 17 carries for the night. JT Elliot added 172 yards on 21 carries. Cantrell finished with 196 yards, completing 14 of 19 passes with one touchdown.

“There’s no doubt we needed a game like this,” said James Clemens coach Wade Waldrop. “We haven’t had to play four quarters for about eight weeks.”

A win by Austin over the Jets would’ve secured them a spot in the Class 7A playoffs without the help of results from around its region. However, Bob Jones lost to Huntsville, which put Austin in the playoffs despite suffering a loss of its own.

A Bob Jones win would’ve created a three-way tie for the remaining two playoff spots. The Patriots’ 17-13 loss put Austin as one of the four teams out of Region 4 along with James Clemens, Sparkman and Florence.

The Jets have one more game before the playoffs, a non-region match-up with 6A team Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa. It will be played at Madison City Stadium on Friday. Kick-off is at 7 p.m.

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