Jonesboro dialed up the right play at the right time Friday evening in Little Rock.
The Hurricane’s passing game clicked in the fourth quarter of a dramatic victory over Little Rock Catholic at War Memorial Stadium. Senior quarterback Cross Jumper threw three touchdown passes to classmate Will Barre’ in the final period, the last covering 17 yards with 15 seconds remaining to give Jonesboro a 28-24 victory in the season opener.
The Jumper-to-Barre’ connection covered scoring plays of 73 and 74 yards earlier in the fourth quarter.
“Actually all three touchdowns came off the same play,” Jonesboro head coach Randy Coleman said Saturday. “It’s a little horizontal stretch of the safety and the offensive line did a good job protecting for Cross and giving Will time to get open.
“Cross found Will down the middle twice for long scores and then late, there were some big third-down conversions going into the touchdown catch for Will. Will had a third-down conversion and then Connor Clark made a great catch on third down to convert right before we scored.”
After sophomore Brock McCoy’s 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, the Rockets kept the Hurricane out of the e nd zone until the final period.
Jumper’s 73-yard touchdown pass to Barre’ and Tenison Roscoe’s second extra point of the game pulled Jonesboro into a 14-14 tie with 6:21 remaining. Catholic reclaimed the lead on Paul Owens’ 38-yard field goal with 3:19 to go, but Jumper found Barre’ on a 74-yard touchdown strike for a 21-17 Jonesboro lead with 2:53 remaining.
The Rockets moved in front again on Brandon Bisceglia’s second touchdown of the game, a 9-yard run with 1:48 to play. Clark, Jonesboro’s tight end, had an 8-yard reception on third-and-5 before Barre’ caught the game-winning touchdown pass.
Junior free safety John Paul Pickens came up with an interception as time expired.
Barre’ finished with 10 receptions for 246 yards and three touchdowns, including four catches for 180 yards in the fourth quarter.
Jumper was 18-of-29 passing for 311 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions. Clark finished with four receptions for 39 yards, while senior receiver Dawson Wagner had two catches for 38 yards.
Jumper also had 57 yards rushing on 13 carries. McCoy finished with 62 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in place of senior running back Charlie Long, who suffered a bruised quadriceps muscle on the opening kickoff, Coleman said.
Pre-snap penalties cost Jonesboro early in the game, Coleman said, and the Hurricane also lost a fumble inside the Rockets’ 5 in the second quarter. Catholic capitalized on an interception to take a 14-7 lead on a 12-yard touchdown pass with four seconds remaining in the first half.
Coleman said Jonesboro had two good possessions in the second half with Jumper at running back and junior Rykar Acebo at quarterback, although both drives stalled. The Hurricane went back to Jumper at quarterback in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we were going to have to go up-tempo and throw the ball a little bit,” Coleman said. “Cross did a really good job of buying some time on certain plays, scrambling around a little bit and making some big throws, but the offensive line did a nice job in the fourth quarter of giving him time and he found some open receivers.”
Jonesboro wraps up non-conference play the next two Fridays at home against Class 7A opponents, Cabot and Conway, that are among the state’s largest schools. Cabot had the highest enrollment of any school for the state’s 2020-22 classification cycle.
“We’ll play teams with a lot of depth that will be able to hit you in waves, especially with defensive line changes and things like that,” Coleman said. “It will test our endurance.”