USJ moves on with big win

“Making it to the state semifinals never gets old.”

That was an adamant statement University School of Jackson head football coach Michael Stroup made after the Bruins (10-1) beat Lakeway Christian (5-7) 48-6 on Friday in the Division II-A state quarterfinals.

USJ did most of its damage in the second half after leading 21-6 at halftime.

“We started out a little slow on offense and then picked it up after we got into a bad situation on the first possession and had to punt,” Stroup said.

But the defensive game plan was a catalyst for USJ.

“Our defensive coaches put together a great defensive plan that our players executed, so credit to them and defensive coordinator Mike Jones for that,” Stroup said.

Stroup said at halftime, he reminded the team of one time in the regular season when they had a good lead on a team and nearly let it get away.

“We just got into a rhythm there,” Stroup said. “I told them at halftime to remember back to the Hardin County game when we had a 28-7 lead at the half and then they came back and cut it to three.

“We’ve got to finish. I challenged them, and they answered that challenge.”

The Bruins’ defense swarmed to the ball throughout the second half, stifling any kind of offense Lakeway tried to put together as the visiting team had a difficult time gaining a first down.

The Bruins were able to compound their lead with turnovers and long runs to either score or set up a scoring play on multiple drives to eventually jump out to a 30-point lead to force the running clock due to the TSSAA’s mercy rule.

“Raleigh Seals played a whale of a game on both sides of the ball,” Stroup said. “Berkeley Pettigrew made some big plays, and Jayce Barksdale had a big interception and a touchdown for us.

“We’ve got a lot of great kids on this team. A lot of guys had a big game tonight.”

USJ will travel to Friendship Christian, who beat Donelson Christian 14-13 in overtime.