Another incredible performance from Damian Henderson and huge defensive stops in the clutch moments helped Jordan pick up a historic 21-20 win on Friday night at Wilson after a possible game-winning field goal went wide for the Bruins in the final minute.
It’s the first time the Panthers (4-4, 2-2) have beaten the Bruins (1-6, 1-3) since 2012 and it keeps Jordan in the hunt for its first playoff appearance since 2015.
“I’ve never been so it feels good to be in position to go to the playoffs,” Henderson said amidst the post game celebration. “All of the energy (from my teammates) just feels great.”
Henderson was on the receiving end of a 78-yard touchdown on the last play of the first quarter to tie the game, and scored the game-winning 60-yard touchdown on a run up the sidelines early in the third quarter. The junior also had an interception.
“It was his show tonight again,” Jordan coach Tim Wedlow said. “That’s the guy. He’s such a big weapon that we have to find ways to get him the ball. He can really do things when he gets the ball and you can see tonight what he did. He’s a great player.”
The Jordan defense held Wilson to just six points in the second half after Henderson’s go-ahead score. Seniors Jeremie McGurn and Elijah Jones led the effort while playing both sides of the ball. McGurn also caught a 65-yard touchdown from quarterback Mekhi Travis, but his double-digit tackles performance on defense was one of the most impressive of the night.
“They got us on the stretch (running plays) in the beginning of the game but we just started sending those linebackers on the outside and let them go and that’s how the game changed at the end,” McGurn said.
“We just communicated and contained outside,” Jones said of the adjustment. “It feels amazing. We did it tonight. I haven’t had this feeling and I’m proud of my team.”
Wilson was dedicated to feeding running back Johnell Gray all night and the junior gained 120 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. However, the Bruins wasted a handful of trips deep into Jordan territory that ended without any points. The last one was the last Wilson possession of the night that ended with the missed field goal to win the game.
“This is a great feeling man,” Wedlow said. “All week we’ve been talking about a victory and they kept saying ‘We are going to win this game’ and it showed because they played their hearts out tonight. They played real football tonight.”
Henderson, Jones and McGurn all said that there was a turning point in practice this week.
“The whole week we were talking about winning and we came out here and executed,” McGurn added. “Practice felt different on Wednesday and Thursday so we felt good going into the game.”
“Practice was a little off (in the beginning of the week) but we wanted to go to the playoffs though so practice had to change,” Henderson said. “What really made us a better team were close games like Kennedy and Lakewood.”
Wilson got on the scoreboard first after Travis fumbled on Jordan’s second drive of the game. Gray scored on the next play from nine yards out. The Bruins had a chance to double its lead on its next possession but turned the ball over on downs at the Jordan 21-yard line.
Three plays later on third and long, Travis went over the top to find Henderson and the junior sprinted down the Jordan sideline to tie the game.
“It was straight go,” Henderson said of the play call. “(Once I caught the ball) I knew they weren’t going to tackle me.”
Wilson answered that with its best drive of the night as Gray was the centerpiece of a 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive that chewed up six minutes of the second quarter. Bruins quarterback Xander McLaurin hit Josh Scott for a 19-yard touchdown that gave them a 14-7 lead. McLaurin completed 10 of his 18 pass attempts for 157 yards.
It only took Jordan four plays to tie the game again as Travis found a wide open McGurn over the middle for the 65-yard touchdown.
“I knew I was going to be open but I thought I was going to get caught for sure,” laughed McGurn after the game.
Wilson had another chance to score before halftime, but Henderson came up with a pass deflection and an interception to end the drive and the half.
The first time Jordan got the ball in the second half, they gave it to Henderson on the third play and he took it around the outside for the eventual game-winning 60-yard touchdown. Henderson rushed the ball eight times for 83 yards.
“When they told me to get in the backfield I knew something was going on,” Henderson said. “It probably looked like it but they weren’t catching me. I made sure of that.”
Wilson should’ve tied the game on its ensuing possession when McLaurin took it in from five-yards out on third down, but the Bruins missed the extra point to leave the score 21-20 Jordan.
The final two Wilson possessions of the game ate up almost 10 minutes of game clock, but the first one ended with a punt and the second one ended with the missed field goal that clinched the victory for the Panthers. The Bruins got the ball with eight minutes left and got down to the Jordan 13-yard line before the drive stalled and forced the field goal attempt.
“I told (my team in the locker room) that I’ve been coaching over 25 years and I’m the only coach on this staff that has playoff and championship experience,” Wedlow said. “I told them that if they showed up tonight that’s the kind of playoff game I need to see. And they did. They showed up like it was a championship game.”
“Coach Wedlow has kept telling me ‘We’re going to win one day’ and that’s what we came back out here for,” McGurn said. “I love all these coaches.”
Jordan will visit Cabrillo on Friday with a chance to win five games in a season for the first time since 2012.
Wilson will face Lakewood on Thursday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.