By TONY STINNETT
Courier Sports Editor
GAINSBORO - Things went from bad to worse for the Cannon County football team during its 28-6 loss at Jackson County here Friday (Aug. 29)
Not only did the Lions (0-2) struggle to put together any offensive consistency in the setback, but they also lost their top all-around offensive threat in the process
Junior tight end Bo Bryson, who finished with three receptions for 49 yards, suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Early indication is Bryson suffered tears in his ACL and MCL and will require surgery that will end his junior campaign.
Bryson’s 49 yards represented almost all of Cannon County’s 68 yards total offense.
Quarterback Josh Walkup was 4-of-12 passing for 52 yards and one interception. Walkup scored the Lions’ only touchdown on a 7-yard run to give the team a 6-0 lead following its first offensive possession. The extra point attempt failed.
A.J. Daniel led the ground game with 24 yards on 11 carries. Wilder Mankin added 23 yards on four carries and also had a 22-yard kickoff return.
The Lions had 57 yards rushing as a team but when you factor in the lost yardage plays due to sacks and fumbles, they finished with 16 yards on 31 carries.
Cannon County was also guilty of four turnovers - one interception and three lost fumbles.
“We just didn’t play well enough or execute well enough to win the game,” Walkup said. “We tried and we prepared well. We played hard. We just didn’t do enough to get the result we wanted.”
Actually, the defense played plenty well enough.
The spirited effort of the white-and-maroon clad Lions kept Cannon County in the game for the longest time.
Jackson County led 9-6 at halftime and maintained the advantage until early in the fourth quarter when the Blue Devils scored on a 2-yard run to extend the lead to 15-6 with 10:33 remaining.
Ethan Smith led the defensive charge with two sacks and 12 total tackles. Daniel had two sacks and a tackle for loss. Maika Fonoti had a big game with two tackles for loss. Bryson added a sack and tackle for loss. Billy Motlow and Case Isenhart also had tackles for lost yardage as several defensive stalwarts made their presence known.
In the end, the defense was on the field way too long and it began to take a toll in the waning stages of the second half.
Not only was Cannon County’s offense unable to control the ball consistently, but it also put the defense in bad situations with the turnovers and three-and-outs in the second half.
Of Jackson County’s 28 points, 15 were the direct result of Cannon County’s inept offense.
Jackson County, which was missing six starters due to injury, scored one touchdown on a Lions’ offensive fumble. The Blue Devils also scored on a safety and added a touchdown on the free kick following the safety. Jackson County finished with 185 total yards with 110 coming on the ground.
“It’s our job to stop them,” linebacker Ethan Smith said. “I thought the defense did a good job overall, but we didn’t do enough. We just have to keep working to improve.”
The aspect of a promising evening for the Lions was there when Cannon County took its opening drive and marched 53 yards on nine plays and scored on Walkup’s 7-yard run. Cannon County led 6-0 with 6:53 remaining in the first quarter.
The score remained 6-0 late in the first half but the Lions, pinned back at their 6 following a Jackson County punt, dropped back for a pass on first down.
A Jackson County defender busted through the line and sacked Walkup in the end zone for a safety to cut the score to 6-2 with 3:47 remaining in the half.
Jackson County took the free kick and drove 56 yards to take a 9-6 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
Cannon County never recovered.
In fact, the Lions seemed to lose some of their identity. They opened the second half with three different quarterbacks - Daniel, Jake Hoskins and Walkup - on their first three possessions.
The first series went three-and-out. The second resulted in a fumble on the second play of the drive.
Cannon County will have a bye week Friday before returning home to play host to Red Boiling Springs on Sept. 12.