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USJ outlasts TCA

Crosstown rivalries matter for private schools too.

University School of Jackson needed all four quarters to close out their 28-19 win over Trinity Christian on Friday night.

The Bruins (3-0) stayed ahead of the Lions throughout the matchup and had an answer for TCA (1-1) every time it moved the ball.

“We had a hard time early on because we were making a lot of mistakes because of the emotion of the game,” said USJ head coach Derrick Pritchard. “But once the guys settled in and calmed down, they did a lot better and executed the plan much better.”

USJ got on the scoreboard first when Titus Taylor broke free for a 23-yard run into the end zone with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.

Trinity’s offense answered by marching down the field and scoring within the first minute of the second quarter.

Then USJ marched down the field with its own scoring drive that lasted less than a minute to go back up 14-7.

“I thought we did a good job staying with them and showing hints of playing the way I think this team can play,” said TCA head coach Darren Bowling. “But we just kept tripping over ourselves too often when we were on offense with penalties that set us back and hurt us.”

The Lions were able to stop the scoring for the rest of the half from USJ and scored a touchdown in the final minute when Lekhy Thompkins crossed the goal line from a couple of yards out. The PAT kick was blocked, giving USJ a one-point lead at halftime, 14-13.

“Trying to stop that guy was extremely difficult because he’s a big guy who’s strong and has great speed,” Pritchard said about trying to stop Thompkins. “He’s a great athlete and hard to bring down.”

The third quarter was a field position battle with both teams making mistakes that hindered their own causes.

It was in the first minute of the fourth quarter when Noah Spencer capped a drive with a short run into the end zone for a 21-13 lead.

TCA answered immediately though because Owen Atwood returned the ensuing kick 80 yards for a touchdown. The Lions tried to tie it with a 2-point conversion that failed, giving the Bruins a two-point lead and the ball.

It took USJ a little more than two minutes to march down the field, and quarterback Corben Howard connected with Alex Wallace for a 23-yard touchdown pass to extend USJ’s lead to two scores.

According to unofficial statistics from TCA broadcaster Stan Gerard, Thompkins finished with 85 yards on 20 carries. Brayden Waller had 53 yards on nine carries, and he caught five passes for 60 yards.

Spencer finished with 224 yards for USJ, and Taylor had 72. Editor’s note: These stats were corrected from an earlier listing of Spencer and Taylor’s yardage.

TCA goes on the road for the first of five straight games away from the friendly confines of their home stadium. Next week is their first region game at Fayette Academy.

USJ will be on the road again, but still in Jackson at Jackson Christian.

“We’re too young to have started thinking about anyone but TCA before now,” Pritchard said when asked if any preliminary preparations had been done for the Eagles. “We’ll celebrate this win tonight and then focus on Jackson Christian next week and only Jackson Christian next week.”

Bowling said even though there’s no school on Monday because of the Labor Day holiday, the Lions will have a normal schedule for the week.

“We’ll still come in for practice at 3 p.m. like we would any other Monday,” Bowling said.

Brandon Shields,

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