FULL REPORT & PHOTO GALLERY: Sparkman falls one point short to James Clemens in epic game
MADISON — The James Clemens Jets (5-2) were able to outlast Sparkman (5-1) this past Friday at home 31-30 to hand the Senators their first loss of the season.
It was a game full of late drama that came down to Sparkman’s inability to tie the game when its extra-point attempt was blocked with 6.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
While the Senators were gifted a dose of heartbreak, the Jets were locked in when it mattered most as quarterback Ty Marsh shined with the pigskin in his hands.
The Jets’ junior passer took care of the football a lot better this week compared to the Muscle Shoals game while he connected with the always-reliable receiver Ty Doughty twice for touchdowns in the victory.
Sparkman senior quarterback Josh Ward also had a strong night for the Senators at Madison City Stadium with three touchdown passes and a rushing score with time running out in the fourth quarter.
The road team took control of the game early on as Sparkman marched the rock down the field with ease as Ward found his target Amaree Jabbar for the 9-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive.
James Clemens squandered its opening possession with a fumble in the backfield on a botched quarterback-to-running back exchange that handed the Senators the pigskin back in prime field position at 9:40 of the first quarter on the Jets 17.
Sparkman had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Christian Burrus that pushed the Senator advantage to 10-0 at the 7:12 mark of the opening quarter.
The Jets got on the board with 3:02 to play in the first quarter with a little trickery as Marsh tossed a backward pass to Devon Cooper who hauled off and lobbed it down the field to a wide-open Cam Berry for the 38-yard score on the double pass.
With the score now 10-7 Sparkman, the Senators responded when Ward hooked up with Jabbar for a second time with a 51-yard touchdown near the end of the first quarter to make it 17-7 Sparkman.
James Clemens continued to nip at the Senators’ heels in the second quarter with a 29-yard field goal by Anthony Ortiz that cut into the Sparkman lead at 17-10.
The turning point of the game came at 5:40 of the second quarter when the Sparkman defense was in a position to get off the field after preventing the Jets from picking up a first down on a third down play.
Sparkman’s linebacker Yves Ponder II made the important tackle to force James Clemens to prepare to punt the ball away.
As the play ended, Ponder stood up with his arms folded looking at the Jets players.
That was apparently too much for the officials as they flagged the linebacker for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down for James Clemens.
The personal foul would loom large as the Jets would use the call to swing the momentum and prolong a drive that had appeared dead in the water.
James Clemens would burn Sparkman with a touchdown as Marsh connected with Doughty for a 26-yard touchdown that knotted the game at 17-17 at the 4:01 mark of the second quarter.
Things went from bad to worse for the Senators before the half as they were forced to punt the ball away with 49.3 on the clock.
For anyone who has seen James Clemens play this season, any time is enough time for Ty Marsh to score a touchdown right before the half.
The boys in blue did just that as Marsh spotted Doughty once more for a 39-yard score that gave the lead to the Jets 25-17 with just 2.3 before halftime.
Fresh off a score before the halftime break, James Clemens received the opening kickoff of the third quarter and the Jets went right back to work their running back Cam Berry.
Berry exploited holes made by his offensive line, as the back ran downhill against Sparkman.
When he couldn’t maneuver around defenders, he just ran them over.
The Berry-heavy drive by James Clemens ended with a 6-yard touchdown carry by Berry of course that made it 31-17 at 8:43 of the third quarter.
Sparkman was meanwhile attempting the comeback bid and the Senators even had a touchdown at 5:39 that was wiped off the board by a holding call.
Later on, Ward had Jabbar with a pass down the field near the end zone, but the James Clemens junior defensive back Will Richards was there to break it up and force the Sparkman punt.
The Senators would eventually draw closer at the end of the third quarter when Ward connected with his receiver Jonathan Rozier for the 15-yard touchdown for a 31-24 Jet lead.
So why was this contest the game of the year?
It was because of the final minutes as Sparkman scratched and clawed to try to square the game back up.
A game that had already been full of offensive highlights, defensive stops and even some questionable calls, it had all the elements of a classic battle on a chilly night in October.
It was football at its best.
Josh Ward had the ball in his hands, and he was carrying Sparkman’s hope of staying perfect as he scrambled to the right side of the field.
The JC crowd was roaring as the bands blared a mixture of musical encouragement and distraction that only added to the chaos of the moment.
The clock was hurtling downward toward zero as Ward tucked the ball the made an all-out sprint to the goal line.
Ward was met by a couple of Jets defenders who collided into the Sparkman quarterback near the pylon with a jolt, but the Senator had found a way to break through for the pivotal touchdown with 6.5 on the clock.
Sparkman was down one point at 31-30 when things started to unravel near the finish line.
First, there was a false start on the Senators before the extra point attempt that moved the spot of the ball.
Then there was a bobbled snap by the holder that caused issues as Sparkman kicker Christian Burrus made the move to attempt to boot the ball through the uprights to tie the game.
All of this might not have even mattered though as the James Clemens special teams unit had busted through the line like it was made of paper blocking the extra-point attempt with relative ease.
The crowd boomed with adulation for their Jets who had left Sparkman shattered and one point short.
James Clemens hits the road this week to face Austin (5-2) while Sparkman returns to Celtic Drive once more this week to do battle with rival Bob Jones (3-3).