JONESBORO — Nearly every miscue came back to haunt the Jonesboro Hurricane on Friday night.
Jonesboro’s season ended with a 37-14 loss to Van Buren in the Class 6A state playoffs at Cooksey-Johns Field. Six turnovers cost the Hurricane as the Pointers took control of the game behind quarterback Gary Phillips, who threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores.
Ending a five-game losing streak, Van Buren (4-7) advances to play Marion next week, while Jonesboro finishes the season 6-4.
“We knew that they could score,” Jonesboro head coach Randy Coleman said. “We wanted to limit the explosive plays and for the most part, we did that, and we wanted to make them run the ball, and they did it a little more effectively than we had hoped. But ultimately it came down to us, like most losses, turning the ball over.”
A fumbled kickoff set up one Van Buren touchdown in the first quarter, but the Hurricane scored twice in the opening period to counter Phillips’ first two touchdown passes. Rykar Acebo found Will Barre’ on a 72-yard touchdown pass and Brock McCoy scored on a 2-yard run as the first quarter ended 14-14.
Then the game began to slip away from the Hurricane.
Coleman felt the Pointers should have been penalized for pass interference on a 6-yard touchdown pass that gave them a 21-14 lead with 8:21 left in the second quarter.
“To me, that was kind of the turning point. We thought it was offensive pass interference, wasn’t called,” Coleman said. “Our defense had done a really good job forcing a fourth down and then they get the touchdown pass and to me, that was really the turning point.”
Jonesboro saw a drive end deep on Van Buren’s end of the field on a fourth-down incompletion. The Hurricane got the ball back on the Van Buren 13 when Cameron Clark recovered a fumble, but couldn’t move and Tenison Roscoe’s 34-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 3:07 left in the half.
Van Buren drove for Jose Zarate’s 32-yard field goal with one second left in the half to take a 24-14 halftime lead.
The Pointers intercepted five passes in the second half. They started their first drive of the third quarter at the Jonesboro 10 after an interception and Phillips scored on a 4-yard run with 10:20 left in the period.
Phillips scored again on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter to set the final score.
“They go up two scores and it puts us in a situation where our offensive fears are realized because they’re a team that likes to blitz and bring a lot of pressure,” Coleman said. “Now we’re two scores behind and that allows them to bring a lot of pressure. We did a decent job of picking up the pressure. I think we gave up five sacks, which is maybe a season high for us, but ultimately because of the pressure we forced a couple of balls that we don’t normally just because we have to get it out of our hands and they intercepted some of those passes.”
Acebo completed 21-of-33 passes for 325 yards and a touchdown. Connor Clark caught 13 passes for 113 yards, while Dawson Wagner had four receptions for 130 yards.
Cameron Clark and Carter-Reece Long led Jonesboro’s defense in tackles with nine each. The Hurricane lost senior linebacker Marco Avant to a foot injury in the second quarter.
“There were opportunities where we could put some points on the board and we just didn’t get it done,” Coleman said. “We really put the defense in positions a lot through the night where it was going to be tough to keep them from scoring points.”