Anybody who ever said a football game never comes down to an inch or two wasn’t watching the end of a thriller between Booker T. Washington and Jackson on Friday night.
That’s because, after putting on a furious rally that saw them trailing by 17 points with 10 minutes left, the Tornadoes came up painfully short by inches when a 46-yard Jose Borregales field goal boinked off the crossbar and bounced back with 1:28 left to give the Generals a thrilling 38-35 victory before a big crowd at Traz Powell Stadium.
After winning a record 41 consecutive games over three-plus seasons, Booker T. has now lost two of its first three this season falling to 1-2. The Generals improved to 1-1 but the win was enormous for a program that had never beaten its neighborhood rival since the school was restarted back in 1999.
“Tonight means so much to this program,” said Jackson coach Earl Little. “ I told the kids last year that we hadn’t won a Soul Bowl (vs. Northwestern) in ages and we went out there and got it done. Now I told them this week it was just like last year. We hadn’t beaten this team since the school was reinstated in 1999. I told them that nobody’s going to give it to you, that you’re going to have to go out there and take it and that’s what they did.”
Jackson quarterback Desmon Phillips sure did as the senior put on a dazzling show on Friday night, firmly establishing himself as one of the top signal callers in South Florida.
All Phillips did was complete 15-of-30 passes for 287 yards one touchdown pass through the air. But he did even more damage on the ground rushing for 148 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Most important was his escapability as numerous times he turned would-be sacks into positive yardage.
“I tell people that there was a reason why in Optimist football they called him Michael Vick,” said Little. “When you have a kid like that that can run, throw and lead a team the way he does, an intelligent kid, coachable, humble, whose parents did a great job of rasing him, you will always be in every single game with a kid like that leading you.”
Phillips led his team back from a 14-3 second quarter deficit with a pair of touchdowns before halftime to give the Generals the lead. Then, after the Tornadoes took the second half kickoff and drove the field with quarterback Daniel Richardson hitting Gustavious Dames for a 33-yard touchdown, he brought the Generals right back on a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 10-yard Nakia Robinson touchdown to put Jackson up for good at 24-21 with 5:26 left in the third.
Eventually the lead ballooned to 38-21 with just under 11 minutes left before Booker T. once again showed its remarkable ability to never say never.
Richardson led his Tornadoes on a quick 73-yard touchdown drive to score with nine minutes left and, after a Jackson three-and-out, took them downfield again hitting Raymond Flanders for a 21-yard score to cut it to three with 5:23 left.
Then came Booker T.’s biggest defensive play of the night when Isaac Readon II picked off a Phillips pass (his only mistake of the night) at the Jackson 44 with 3:16 left, eventually setting up Borregales long field attempt.
“Tonight meant a lot to this program. I love this team and we’ve all worked hard together to achieve this,” said Phillips. “It wasn’t all about me, we do this as a team. I’m just glad I was able to contribute. I’m just so happy. Now we have to just keep staying focused.”