Simply put, Jerrion Ealy is a difference maker on the football field, and Friday night, the junior running back/return man from Jackson Preparatory School made all the difference against Presbyterian Christian School.
Playing just three quarters, Ealy rushed for 235 and four touchdowns on 19 carries and returned a kickoff 97 yards for another score as the visiting Patriots topped the Bobcats 41-9.
JPS (6-0, 1-0 AAAA-District 1), the five-time Division I Mississippi Association of Independent Schools state champion, handed PCS (4-2, 0-1) their second consecutive loss after the Bobcats saw an 18-game, regular-season winning streak snapped last week.
Ealy’s 1-yard run gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead after one quarter, and his kickoff return came in the second quarter after PCS’ O’neill Walters’ 36-yard field goal had cut the JPS lead to 7-3 in the second quarter.
After a shanked PCS set up JPS at the Bobcats’ 46-yard line late in the second quarter, Ealy added a 24-yard scoring run to give the Patriots a 21-3 halftime lead. He added touchdown runs of 50 yards and 58 yards on one-play scoring drives for the Patriots in the second half.
“He makes a difference, he does,” Jackson Prep coach Ricky Black said. “There’s no doubt about that, and I can’t explain it any other way.”
PCS didn’t help themselves at all, drawing 10 penalties for minus 85 yards and committing four turnovers. JPS senior cornerback Maddox Henry came up with a pair of interceptions and the Bobcats lost a pair of fumbles inside the Patriots’ red zone.
“The first half, we played them tooth and nail, but here’s how it’s been going for us,” Hawkins said. “We drive down, and we fumbled at the 16-yard line. We had them in a good way right there, but we just made too many mistakes.”
And every time the Bobcats began to even think about seizing any momentum, Ealy answered.
First came the kickoff return following PCS’ first score in the first half. Then, after junior Peyton Greenwood returned the second half kickoff to midfield, Ealy broke free off the edge on the first snap from scrimmage of the third quarter.
“That was our plan,” Ealy said. “Come out on the first drive of the second half and score. We did that, and kind of set up everything for the win.
“But it was a tough night. They’re a very good team. They’ve got a lot of good athletes and they always play us tough. No matter what the circumstances are, they’re always going to play us tough.”
Later in the third quarter, PCS’ defense rose up and stopped Ealy on a fourth-and-1 at the Patriots’ 41, and five plays later, senior running back Sheldon James scored on a 4-yard run to make the score 28-9.
But after another kickoff return set the Patriots at their 42-yard line, Ealy got to the edge again on the first snap of the possession for a 58-yard score that put JPS ahead 34-9 after three quarters.
JPS senior quarterback Chance Lovertich capped the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Landon Wilbanks.
James finished with 89 yards on 15 carries for PCS and junior quarterback Brandon Thornton gained 95 yards on 14 carries. Thornton threw for 111 yards, but completed just 4 of 17 passes with two interceptions.
PCS will host Amite (La.) Oak Forest Academy for homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday in a AAAA-District 1 game. The Yellowjackets (5-0) had an open week.