The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by John Ross, Class of 2013.
Friday night’s showdown between Jordan and Peninsula started the same way it ended, with Jordan Washington racing along the visiting sidelines.
His opening salvo was an 89-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, and his grand finale was a game-sealing interception to preserve Jordan’s 41-35 victory in their home opener.
“For us, they’re learning how to play football,” said first-year head coach Jon Nielsen after the win. “So for me, every week is growth. I don’t care about the wins and losses. I just care about growth every week, and we’re getting better every week.”
Washington ended up with just over 120 yards of offense, but had two of the biggest plays of the night. So too did senior running back Khaali Hicks, who had long touchdown runs of 37 and 50 yards on the night. That 50-yarder was the game-winning score for Jordan with just under four minutes left to play.
“I felt locked in,” said Hicks, who finished with 115 yards on eight carries. “As soon as they told me to go in, I was ready from the start. Ready to get down the field, show my speed off and everything.”
Following Washington’s initial TD, the Jordan defense forced a turnover as Jahsiah Matua ripped a fumble free on Peninsula’s first play. After Patrick Woods, Jr. recovered the ball, Jordan’s offense, led by sophomore QB Jarret “JJ” Nielsen (13/24, 192 yards, 2 TD), drove down for another score, making it 12-0 less than four minutes into the game.
The teams would then trade touchdowns for the remainder of the first half, with Jordan holding a 27-21 lead at halftime. J-Town’s final score of the opening half was a 63-yard bomb from Nielsen to Jacob Hernandez, easily the biggest pass play of the night.
Peninsula had most of its success on the ground, led by quarterback AJ Maes, who ran it 10 times for 101 yards and three touchdowns. His 19-yard TD scamper on 3rd & 17 capped off a 12-play, nearly 8 minute drive to start the second half, giving the visiting Panthers their first lead, 28-27.
Mason Gonzalez extended that lead to 35-27 with a 12-yard TD run on 4th & 2, just two plays into the fourth quarter. At that point, Jordan had its back against the wall in need of another late comeback.
“I'm extremely proud of this team,” said Washington after his team’s comeback win. “We always come through at the biggest moment in the last part of the game … Last year was a good experience for me and it helped me keep my focus. In moments like this, I get a little nervous, but I had to cheer up my guys and I told them it wasn’t over. We were down, but we weren’t losing this game.”
With less than eight minutes to play, Nielsen linked up with Gerald Pickens for an 11-yard TD pass, bringing Jordan within two. Nielsen then went to Deontae Tucker (4 catches, 75 yards) for the game-tying two point conversion, making it a 35-35 score.
After a missed field goal by Peninsula, Jordan got the biggest run of the night as Hicks scampered 50 yards up the friendly sideline, putting J-Town back in front, 41-35, with 3:43 left.
Jordan’s defense was asked to make two stops, and they delivered. First with a turnover on downs, and then with Washington’s game-sealing pick.
With consecutive close wins to start the season, Coach Nielsen remains confident with where this team is headed, though he acknowledges there’s still work to be done.
“We're still a couple plays away on some things, then the game’s not even close,” Nielsen said.
“We've made it fun for them to keep them in the game, but once we hit on all cylinders, which we'll see as we get closer to league, then it's a whole different story.”
As a team, Jordan ran the ball 19 times for 269 yards (14.2 YPC) and four touchdowns.
Jordan will look to improve to 3-0 next Thursday as the Panthers host Fairfax at 7 p.m.