By Jonathan Deal
What began as an offensive track meet ended with an overtime goal-line stand by Ardmore’s defense as the Tigers held on Friday night for one of the biggest wins in school history with a 36-34 victory over North Jackson in Class 4A, Region 7.
After the teams combined for 35 points during a five-minute scoring spree to start the game, it was Ardmore’s defense that made the difference in the second half.
Garrett Miller’s 14-yard scramble to open overtime gave Ardmore the lead and the Tigers’ defense made sure it was enough with a goal-line stand on a two-point conversion attempt by North Jackson.
Ardmore (3-0, 2-0) shut down North Jackson in the second half, limiting the Chiefs to 88 total yards and zero points.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We’ve got a lot more than what we’re showing out there,’” said Ardmore head coach Clint Legg. “They responded. It was a tale of two halfs for us.”
While the defense tightened up, the offense relied on its power running game to move the chains. Ardmore ran for 159 yards in the second half, passing just four times in the final two quarters and overtime.
The formula worked as North Jackson (0-3, 0-2) struggled to get a first down after shredding the Tigers to open the game.
Both teams moved the ball at will in the first half behind big plays in the running game.
Ardmore struck first with a nine-play, 60-yard drive, capped by Garrett Miller’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Durrett. The successful two-point conversion that followed set the tone for point-after attempts the rest of the game.
After North Jackson quickly answered with eight points, it took Ardmore just four plays for Miller to scramble 29 yards for a score. A failed two-point try put the Tigers ahead 14-8 with three minutes to play in the first quarter.
Not to be outdone, North Jackson followed with Octavius Matthews’ 70-yard rushing TD on the first play from scrimmage. The Chiefs converted the PAT and took a 15-14 lead.
The Chiefs’ lead grew just seconds later when Cody Gass picked up an Ardmore fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned it 32 yards for a score. North Jackson added another TD just before halftime when quarterback Chad Cobb scored on a 1-yard keeper.
The key play in the game came on North Jackson’s opening drive of the second half when a promising possession ended with an interception by Dominic Clemmons at the goal line.
The second-and-goal play at the Ardmore 9 stopped the Chiefs from taking a three-touchdown lead and set up a nine-play drive that pulled Ardmore to within 28-20 with three minutes to play in the third.
Joseph Eubanks finished the drive, which featured only running plays, with a 1-yard plunge.
Ricky Lowery capped the Tigers’ next scoring drive with a 5-yard run. The game-tying drive featured nine runs and four Ardmore ball carriers.
Seven players touched the ball on the drive for Ardmore, led by Josh Meloon’s 11 carries for 72 yards.
Miller completed nine of 14 attempts for 152 yards and one touchdown. The junior also rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.
The win was Ardmore’s first-ever victory over North Jackson in six attempts. The Tigers haven’t launched the season with more than two straight wins since 2004, when they opened with a 5-0 record and finished 7-4.
“This is the biggest win since I’ve been here,” said Legg. “It’s one of the biggest wins I’ve been a part of.”
Ardmore travels to Randolph Friday for a region matchup.