It’s one thing to make history. It’s an entirely different thing to make history when the chips are stacked against you, and that’s exactly how Jordan football felt on Friday night.
After a long drive to Apple Valley to face Granite Hills in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 quarterfinals, the Panthers started slow, were on the wrong side of most penalty flags and trailed the Cougars by 15 points at halftime.
“I told them in the locker room that I wasn’t worried about the score,” Jordan coach Tim Wedlow said. “I told them to just win the next half.”
The Panthers did that and more as Jordan outscored Granite Hills by 22 points in the second half on the way to a 34-27 win. Jordan advances to the semifinals for the first time in school history.
“It feels amazing because not a lot of people can say they made history,” said Jordan defensive back Jacob Hernandez, who returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. “We kept our heads up at halftime and came out with all of the energy we had.”
The game was truly a tale of two halves. Granite Hills dominated the first half offensively and got pretty much everything it wanted. Jordan dominated the second half with big plays from Jordan Washington, Hernandez, Jones and others.
Jordan only needed seven plays for Washington to score twice at the beginning of the second half.
Washington also scored the go-ahead touchdown, and the two-point conversion, to take a seven point lead with seven minutes to play. Washington finished with 182 yards on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns— all in the second half.
“We knew it wasn’t over and we knew that we’re better than this team,” Washington said. “We didn’t let the (penalties and unlucky breaks) stop us. We came back out with a great atmosphere and we didn’t quit. Our mindset was to win the game. We stayed focused and came through with the win.”
Granite Hills drove right back down the field and took a shot at the end zone with about three minutes to play, but Jones was there to make the interception for Jordan. The Panthers were forced to punt, their first of the game, and the Cougars got another shot at the end zone that Jones knocked down with a second left on the clock.
“We finally clicked and started talking and got it together,” Jones said of the defense. “In the second half we established that defense was going to win this game. That’s what we told each other. We’re going to win this game.”
On the final play, Malik Lott delivered the sack as time expired to secure the victory.
“It feels damn good,” Wedlow said. “I keep telling these guys to never quit and to keep fighting and it showed tonight. I told them I didn’t want to go home on that long bus ride after a loss. I told them I wanted to party, and they wanted to party too.”
Granite Hills scored on its opening drive while chewing up almost half of the first quarter. Jordan answered with a long drive that looked like it was capped by a Damian Henderson touchdown, but three consecutive penalties called on the Panthers pushed them back. On 4th & Goal from the 23-yard line, quarterback Makhi Travis hit Jeremie McGurn at the goal line for the touchdown.
Granite Hills extended its lead to 14-6 on the first play of the second quarter when quarterback Byron Rivas took it in himself. Rivas also led the Cougars on a 13-play scoring drive that Jeremy Hughes capped with a tough touchdown run for the 21-6 halftime lead.
Jordan was penalized seven times on offense in the first half, and all seven of them were called when the Panthers were inside the Granite Hills 25-yard line. The fouls also took two scores off the board for Jordan.
“We made some adjustments (at halftime) because (Granite Hills) was running out of plays, so we just told our kids to keep making plays and it would happen,” Wedlow said. “We watched seven Granite Hills game films (in preparation for this game) so we did a good job of knowing what was coming.”
Washington’s long run to start the third quarter energized the Jordan sideline, and then after Granite Hills quickly answered with a touchdown pass from Rivas to Theodore Wiggins, Washington took it in again on the fourth play of the ensuing Jordan drive to cut the lead to 27-20 with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
When Granite Hills faced third and long near midfield on its next drive, Hernandez made a game-changing decision from his safety position.
“The other receiver in the seam was covered so I went to the other guy in the seam,” Hernandez said. “I baited (the quarterback) so he looked open and then I just took it. I’ve always wanted a pick-6 and I got it so I just ran.”
Hernandez picked off the pass over the middle in full stride and took it 70-yards back for the score. The Panthers couldn’t convert the extra point because of a penalty, and the score stayed 26-27 until the best drive of the game for Jordan in the heart of the fourth quarter.
With Washington getting the majority of the carries, the Panthers went on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that ended in a phenomenal personal effort from Washington. His 10-yard touchdown run, and two-point conversion catch, get Jordan the lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I didn’t care if I was tired, and I was dying man, but I stayed on the field because I wanted to win,” Washington said. “I had to put the team on my back this time. I was not going to go home, three hours on a bus, for a loss.”
“We just have to win this whole thing now,” Hernandez said while the Panthers celebrated in the visitors locker room.
Jordan will face Twentynine Palms in the semifinal.