Even when both teams are down, the Soul Bowl still always makes for a tremendous game.
Although neither Jackson nor Northwestern will play any postseason games this year, the Soul Bowl, the annual meeting between the neighborhood rivals, still had meaning to the players and coaches on both teams.
It was a chance at validation for the winner to finish on a positive note after neither met expectations this season.
In a game that featured minimal offense, some hard hits, plenty of rain and even more drama, Northwestern won its 10th consecutive meeting against Jackson 15-14 in overtime Friday night at Traz Powell Stadium.
Northwestern now leads the all-time series 34-12.
Florida State commitment JoJo Robinson scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime after forcing the extra period with a 6-yard touchdown run and ensuing two-point conversion at the end of regulation.
After Robinson’s overtime touchdown, Jackson scored on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line on its possession. Wide receiver Jovon Durant caught a jump ball among three Bulls defenders.
The Generals then opted to go for two and the win.
Quarterback Quinton Flowers gave an option pitch to Timothy Bellinger, and he was stuffed by Northwestern cornerback Jamarion Samuel to finish it off.
“Our kids just never gave up, and that’s what it’s all about,” Northwestern coach Stephen Field said. “I had a very small part in this, and they are the reason why we were successful.”
Robinson forced overtime with a 6-yard run up the middle where he dove across the plane of the goal line. He then similarly extended about as much as his body would allow before letting his knee hit the ground to get the ball in the end zone on the two-point conversion.
“I believed in my O-line; my coach called a great play,” said Robinson, who finished with 31 yards on five carries and four catches for 68 yards. “I just went in. I just went in for the score.”
With all the momentum, Robinson’s overtime touchdown was much easier as he cruised right in up the middle on the Bulls’ first play.
Flowers, a South Florida commit, had his two completions go for touchdowns. On top of the score to Durant in overtime, he connected on a 26-yard pass to Desmond Phillips in the third quarter.
Jackson missed its two-point try after that touchdown, but the score was upped to 8-0 when Northwestern quarterback Jabari Dowling ran out of the back of the end zone when pressured from up the middle for a Jackson safety.
Flowers finished 2 for 17 for 34 yards, an interception and 53 rushing yards.
It was the first time since 1991 that the teams faced off in a season where neither made the playoffs.
Northwestern, a school that has state and national championships to its credit, missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Jackson, which was ranked the No. 1 team in Class 5A in Florida in the Associated Press’ preseason poll, similarly underwhelmed by losing two district games in 2013.