SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. — Millbrook High School senior wide receiver Jordan Jackson has no shortage of fans cheering for him when he suits up on Fridays for the Pioneers, including his father Scott who is in the front row despite being stricken with cancer.
Jackson and the rest of his teammates gave the Pioneer faithful plenty to cheer about in their season opener Friday night at Jefferson.
Jackson hauled in eight passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns and classmate Gavin Evosirch scored four times as the Pioneers had to scratch and claw before finally pulling away from the Cougars in the second half for a season-opening 62-42 victory.
Jackson’s big night was part of a huge game for quarterback Kaden Buza, who threw for 350 yards and six scores.
“Two dynamic offenses on the field right there,” Millbrook coach Josh Haymore said. “You have to respect their quarterback running the ball and throwing the ball. He’s just a good football player.
“It’s different in the game than it is in practice, and once they started seeing it in the game we were able to make some adjustments [on defense]. I thought it was a good called game and the kids executed on offense and much better on defense in the second half.”
After what resembled a video game in the first half the Pioneers found themselves down 28-27 at halftime. The two teams combined for eight touchdowns in the 11 total drives with each team punting just once.
Jefferson (0-1) took the opening kick and drove it right down the field 60 yards in nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead on a fourth-down, eight-yard run by Francis Diaz.
Millbrook (1-0) didn’t waste anytime tying the game when Evosirch sprinted 67 yards nearly untouched on the Pioneers’s first play from scrimmage and the track meet was on.
After getting a stop, Millbrook’s offense again didn’t spend much time on the field. On the second play from scrimmage, Buza hit Jackson in stride for 75 yards. Jackson just missed scoring getting hauled down at the Cougars 1, but Evosirch put the Pioneers on top 14-7 on the next play.
Each of the next four possessions resulted in touchdowns. Buza had touchdown passes of 32 and 50 yards to William Haines and Travis Spain, respectively.
Spain’s touchdown put the Pioneers up 27-21 with 7:16 remaining in the half and it looked like they had a chance to add to it when the defense came up with an interception. But, Millbrook was unable to pick up a first down and was forced to punt.
After a short punt to the Millbrook 46 with just over two minutes remaining, Jefferson had plenty of time to put together an eight-play drive to take a 28-27 halftime lead on Nick Smith’s two-yard run with 14 seconds left.
The Pioneers made adjustments at the half and they worked on defense.
Over the final 24 minutes, Millbrook allowed one offensive touchdown and that was on the final drive of the game when mostly backups were in the contest.
Millbrook took the second half kickoff and went 55 yards in nine plays. A 34-yard pass on fourth-and-10 to Jackson set up his two-yard scoring catch three plays later as Millbrook went ahead 34-28.
The Cougars returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards for a score to retake the lead at 35-34, but Millbrook scored on its next two possessions to grab the lead for good.
Buza’s nine-yard pass to Jackson made the score 41-35 and the pair hooked up again for 20 yards to open the fourth quarter and extend the lead to 48-35.
After a defensive stop, Evosirch gave the Pioneers breathing room when he returned the punt 66 yards for a score to make it 55-35 with 8:34 remaining.
“[At halftime], we just knew that we had to pick up the intensity a little bit as a team and make more stops defensively,” Jackson said. “I can’t really think of one play but I think when we stopped them on defense it kind of brought their momentum down. This is an important win, it’s a momentum booster going into next week.”
Evosirch had 13 carries for 83 yards and two scores and caught a 14-yard pass from Buza for the final Pioneers TD. Spain added five catches for 94 yards.
Diaz had 19 carries for 107 yards and two scores for Jefferson. Corbin Pierson completed 15 passes for 167 yards and had a rushing touchdown, while John Gidney had six catches for 84 yards.
Millbrook plays next hosts Loudoun County (Sept. 6).