By John Valerino
LAKELAND — Earlier in the week, George Jenkins coach Chris Canning said his Eagles were approaching the “meat of our schedule.”
After lopsided wins over Mulberry, Bartow and Lake Region, the Eagles faced their toughest opponent to date Friday night in Ridge Community in the Class 8A-District 7 opener.
And they prevailed.
Jenkins defeated Ridge in a defensive struggle 14-7.
Ridge outgained the Eagles 320 yards to 210 but was turned away inside Jenkins’ 15- yard line four times, three times on downs and once by a fumble.
“This was a milestone win for us,” Canning said. “I can’t think of a bigger win for this program.”
It is also thought to be the first 4-0 start
in the football program’s 26-year history.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Canning said. “The defense didn’t break down and the offense came through when it had to.
“No one gave us much of a chance this season,” he said. “No one believed in us. We lost 21 seniors from last year and 10 more left the program for other schools.
“Our kids had something to prove.”
Quarterback Tyriq Starks scored the game-winning touchdown with 9: 49 left to play. The 6-foot-3 junior took the snap, darted to his left and scooted 27 yards for the score and a 14-7 lead.
Less than a minute later, Ridge’s Josh Berry raced 72 yards for a score, but the play was nullified by a penalty.
Ridge was knocking on the door again with 2:02 to play, but Jenkins’ Dre Leggett picked off a pass at the 10-yard line to secure the win.
Ridge, now 2-2 and 0-1 in Class 8A-District 7, took a 7-0 lead on a 56-yard hookup between receiver Dennis Ray and quarterback Kymari Odum at the 5:17 mark of the second period.
Jenkins tied it at 7 on a 24-yard scoring strike from Starks to Marvin Landry with 1:27 left in the half.
Debritton Mobley led the Eagles’ offensive attack with 123 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Jenkins attempted just four passes, favoring a ground attack that netted 186 yards.
Berry ran for 100 yards on 13 rushes for Ridge.
Jenkins is off next Friday, but returns to action Sept. 28 at home against Kissimmee Gateway. Ridge entertains Tampa Jesuit next Friday.