Securing a return trip to the playoffs wasn’t a bad way for Jackson to show how much it has improved this season.
But routing rival Northwestern and winning a Soul Bowl for the first time in over decade?
There’s an eye-opener.
The Generals took control of the annual rivalry game in the second quarter and never let go on their way to a 44-15 victory over Northwestern Friday night at Traz Powell Stadium.
Jackson (6-4) won its first Soul Bowl game since 2002 and snapped a 10-game losing streak against Northwestern (5-5).
“This means everything,” senior Terrance Rutherford said. “We worked hard all summer for this. We started this game with a chip [on our shoulder]. Last year, we had no leaders on this team. Now, we’re all stepping up.”
The Generals defeated the Bulls for only the sixth time since 1978 and scored the most points in a game they ever had in the series. Northwestern leads the all-time series 34-13.
The 29-point victory was also Jackson largest margin of victory in the series since a 43-0 win in 1970.
Jackson will travel to Naples to face Lely High on Friday in a Region 4-5A quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Northwestern (5-5) will travel to Hallandale to face the undefeated Chargers (9-0) for its Region 4-6A quarterfinal at the same time next week.
“I think we study more film than any other team, and I tell this team if they go out and execute the game plan the way they’re taught, no one should beat them,” first-year Jackson coach Earl Little said. “We have a young team, but they’re athletic, and they’re great kids.
“We knew the history and the tradition of this game, and these kids saw that and they pulled it off.”
Tied at 7 after the first quarter, the Generals broke the game open scoring 30 unanswered points over the next two quarters.
Jackson’s defense had five sacks and an interception by Kevin Lipscomb as it contained the Bulls offense and freshman quarterback Chatarius Atwell, who ran for a touchdown and threw for another.
After completing his first six passes for 79 yards, Atwell went 6 for 19 the rest of the game for only 54 yards.
Junior quarterback Desmond Phillips led Jackson’s balanced offense as it gained nearly identical yards passing (149) and rushing (142).
Phillips threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, and Rutherford caught a touchdown pass and threw for one late when he came in for Phillips at quarterback.
Junior Jeremiah Miller and senior Kama Barnes also ran for touchdowns.
On defense, junior Shemar Smith and sophomore Renaldo Flowers each had a sack.
Little credited his team’s tough schedule for preparing them for performances like Friday’s.
The Generals played reigning national champion Booker T. Washington this season as well as defending state champions Miami Central, Plantation American Heritage and South Dade, and beat playoff teams North Miami Beach and Northwestern.
“We knew it was possible for this team to dominate a game like this,” Little said. “We have been battle-tested this season. We’ve played four [defending] state champions and two nationally ranked teams. We lost those games, but we learned from them.”