Fayetteville stops Jefferson City 34-24

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — C.J. O’Grady did his best impression of a post-up power forward Friday night at Harmon Stadium, and he picked just the right time.

O’Grady, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior tight end/wide receiver, already had hauled in one touchdown pass for Fayetteville when it called upon his services one more time. With the Bulldogs clinging to a three-point lead and facing third-and-goal from the 11, quarterback Mitch Marshall lobbed a sky-high pass to the corner of the Harmon Stadium south endzone, where O’Grady waited in jump-ball mode.

A Jefferson City defender, standing some six inches shorter, didn’t stand much of a chance, as O’Grady leaped and grabbed the clinching touchdown in a 34-24 Fayetteville win.

“That is a 7-on-7, inside the red-zone play that we ran right there,” Bulldogs coach Daryl Patton said. “C.J. made a great catch on a great pass from Mitch.

“It’s going to be an exciting year. We did a lot of great things tonight, but we also hurt ourselves and gave them numerous opportunities, and that’s too good of a football team to do that stuff against. But I’m proud of the way our kids fought and clawed all night long.”

Fayetteville (2-0) coughed up three fumbles that directly led to all three Jefferson City touchdowns in the game. But it was two early turnovers by the Jays (2-1) that helped set the tone.

A fumbled reception on Jefferson City’s third offensive play of the game. A Jays pass was intercepted by Fayetteville junior linebacker Dre Greenlaw on the second drive. Greenlaw raced 68 yards for a touchdown on the interception, giving the Bulldogs an early 14-0 lead with 4:29 still left in the first quarter. And while Jefferson City pulled to within three points late, the early deficit was too much to overcome.

“Our guys showed a lot of heart and we’re just a roughneck football team,” Jefferson City coach Ted LePage said. “But we can’t make the mistakes we did early and expect to win. We gave them a 14-0 lead just off pure mistakes of ours, and that’s something we need to correct. But one thing I like about this bunch is we’re real young and we’ll try to correct them.”

Jefferson City pulled within 14-10 early in the second quarter following the first of three Fayetteville fumbles on the night, as Marcantonio scored from 12 yards out and J.T. Bohlken booted a 21-yard field goal.

After two Bulldogs field goals set the score at 20-10 at the intermission, another fumble on a punt return led to a quick Jays touchdown in the third quarter when Elijah Pittman scored from one yard out with 8:51 left to pull his team within 20-17.

The momentum seemed to be shifted in Jefferson City’s favor after forcing a Fayetteville punt on the next possession, but after driving to the Bulldog 27, a fourth-and-1 attempt was stopped short when Marcantonio was held for no gain late in the third quarter.

“That fourth down was a big play,” LePage said. “If I had to do it again, I would go for it again, but I wouldn’t call that play again.”

Fayetteville’s lead grew to 27-17 on a 13-yard pass from Marshall to O’Grady on the following possession, but the Jays found new life one more time when a third Bulldog fumble midway through the fourth quarter set up a short scoring drive from inside in 10. Marcantonio found paydirt on a 1-yard plunge to pull Jefferson City within 27-24 with 6:55 left, forcing the Bulldogs to come up with one final score to put the game away.

“We fought back admirably,” LePage said. “But when you make those mistakes, and any time the other team gets a defensive score, that’s a good day for your team.”

Marcantonio finished 19-of-33 passing for 154 yards to go along with 133 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 22 carries. Elijah Pittman added 18 carries for 86 yards, along with five catches for 39 yards.

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