JONESBORO — Jonesboro finished the regular season with a big-play barrage Thursday night.
The Hurricane returned three interceptions for touchdowns, covering 270 yards combined, and also completed a 92-yard touchdown pass during a 35-point second quarter that led to a 42-14 rout of Marion at Cooksey-Johns Field.
The last two defensive touchdowns came in the final minute of the first half. Cornerback Braelyn Moore returned an interception 100 yards with 51 seconds left in the half and safety John Paul Pickens took an interception back 97 yards as time expired.
Those scores gave the Hurricane (6-3, 5-1 6A-East) a 42-7 halftime lead and guaranteed a continuously running clock in the second half on the mercy rule.
“I can remember vividly walking into the locker room at halftime looking at Coach Josh Fleming and saying, ‘Have you ever seen anything like that?’ and both of us just saying no,” Jonesboro head coach Randy Coleman said. “It was definitely something different.”
The score was tied 7-7 when the second quarter started. Cornerback Brodie Williams returned an interception 73 yards for a score with 10:39 remaining; tight end Connor Clark scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 26-yard drive at the 7:16 mark; and Clark caught a 92-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Rykar Acebo with 5:38 to go.
Williams set up Jonesboro’s first score with an interception on the first play of the game. Rolling to his left, Acebo found Kavon Pointer on an 8-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes into the game for a 7-0 lead.
Marion (2-7, 2-4 conference) tied the game when defensive lineman Kyjuan Rogers intercepted a screen pass and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown with nine seconds left in the first quarter. Then momentum totally shifted to the home sideline.
“You’re thinking a game that we had control of is now a tie football game. Then all of a sudden Brodie Williams intercepts a second pass and returns it for a touchdown, and we go back-to-back offensive possessions with touchdowns and it’s 28-7,” Coleman said. “Then you get more two more pick six and you’re sitting in a situation where the clock is running after the half. It was nice.”
Reserves finished the game in the second half as Jonesboro clinched the No. 2 seed from the 6A-East. The Hurricane will host Van Buren (3-7, 1-6 6A-West) in the first round of the state playoffs next Friday.
With the defense scoring three times in the first half and the clock running in the second, Jonesboro ran just 35 offensive plays for the night.
Acebo was 7-of-13 passing for 170 yards and two touchdowns. On the 92-yard touchdown pass, he lobbed the football over a defender to Clark, who caught the ball around the 30-yard line and sprinted the remaining 70 yards to the end zone. Clark led the Hurricane with three receptions for 122 yards.
“They were real aggressive up front, especially early in the second quarter,” Coleman said. “They were getting some pressure on Rykar up the middle, so we tried to get some quick stuff out on the edge and got enough with Connor and Kavon Pointer early. We did some motion and movement and got a big play with Connor, caught them out of coverage.”
Jonesboro’s defense did not yield points until the fourth quarter. Coleman said the Hurricane wanted to take away the Patriots’ short passing game to force them into deeper throws.
“Coach (Tyler) George and the defensive staff did a really good job of disguising coverage,” Coleman said. “We played a lot of trap coverage where we show one coverage and play something different. It was really good on their part.”
Williams had two of Jonesboro’s four interceptions and helped give the offense good field position with a 20-yard punt return in the second quarter. Marco Avant and Cameron Clark had six and five tackles, respectively.