JONESBORO — Jonesboro didn’t flinch when El Dorado took a 13-point lead midway through the third quarter of Friday night’s 6A-East conference opener at Cooksey-Johns Field.
The Hurricane kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard the rest of the night while scoring the final 24 points to earn a 31-20 victory in a top-five showdown in Class 6A.
Jonesboro, which is ranked fifth in 6A in the Arkansas Sports Media poll, rallied to take the lead over the fourth-ranked Wildcats as Rykar Acebo threw two of his three touchdown passes in the second half. Tenison Roscoe added a field goal and John Paul Pickens the clinching touchdown during a 17-point fourth quarter for the Hurricane (2-2, 1-0 conference).
“The No. 1 thing is our defense and special teams played lights out in the second half,” Jonesboro coach Randy Coleman said. “And then we’ve had some really good quarterbacks at Jonesboro since I’ve been here, but this may be the best night that a quarterback has had since I’ve been here, especially with the pressure he was under, the big-time throws he was making. Rykar played his tail off.”
Acebo finished 23-of-32 passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. Kavon Pointer caught eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns, while Jesse Washington finished with seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. Brock McCoy led Jonesboro in rushing with 62 yards on 18 carries.
El Dorado (2-2, 0-1) led 14-7 at halftime. The Wildcats, who averaged more than 41 points per game in non-conference play, took a 20-7 lead on Sharmon Rester’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jackie Washington with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
Jonesboro answered with a touchdown on its next possession. Acebo’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Washington and Roscoe’s extra point brought the Hurricane within 20-14 with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
An errant snap led to the Wildcats punting on their next drive, with Jonesboro taking over at its 31 in the final minute of the third quarter.
Acebo scrambled to convert one third down during the drive and found Pointer on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 10:33 left in the game. Roscoe’s extra point gave the Hurricane a 21-20 lead.
“Kavon makes us a lot better,” Coleman said of Pointer, who caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. “If you look back at the Cabot and Conway games, the times the offense really struggled was when KP wasn’t in there (because of an ankle injury). With him and Jesse out there, there’s some big-time weapons.”
Linebacker Andre Reed sacked Rester on third and 9 to end El Dorado’s next possession. Pickens’ punt return put the Hurricane on the Wildcats’ 44 to start another drive with 8:17 remaining in the game.
Eluding the rush, Acebo found Washington open over the middle for 22 yards to the El Dorado 8. The drive stalled and Roscoe kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 24-20 Jonesboro lead with 5:31 remaining.
Jonesboro’s defense came up with another stop, Reed sacking Rester on fourth down as the Hurricane took over at the Wildcats’ 22 with 4:12 to play.
Reed finished with 14 tackles, including four sacks. Lineman Bendarrion Webster had two sacks as the Hurricane kept pressure on Rester.
“Andre Reed is having one heck of a senior year. He’s played really well in every game and he played really well (Friday night),” Coleman said. “We gave enough pressure, and that’s one heck of a quarterback too, and it got him off his spot and he had to scramble to make plays. It kept him from getting big plays down the field.”
A third-down pass interference penalty on El Dorado gave Jonesboro a first down with 2:40 to play. Acebo kept for 13 yards to the Wildcats’ 1 on second down and Pickens punched in the touchdown with 1:01 remaining.
Reed had yet another sack on El Dorado’s final drive and cornerback Erik Wilson intercepted a pass on the game’s final play.
Coleman credited defensive coordinator Tyler George for coming up with a game plan that limited the Wildcats’ big-play capability. El Dorado finished with 261 total yards, including 168 passing yards.
“We played with three safeties, just trying to take away the deep ball,” Coleman said. “Coach George, one of the phenomenal things he did is we have one corner who is really good pressing, in press coverage, and one who is better off, and he flipped them all night long, one pressing with a safety over the top and one catching. It almost turned into five across a lot of times in the back. Just a great game plan by Coach George.”
Jonesboro will celebrate homecoming next Friday as Sheridan visits Cooksey-Johns Field. The Yellowjackets (2-2, 0-1) opened conference play Friday with a 41-13 loss to Searcy.