Trinity football defeats rival St. James, 33-7, in playoff tune-up
Trinity coach Granger Shook has played in the rivalry game against St. James before, so he knows the history well. Playoff meetings, close endings, Shook said it's more than that, though. Trojans and Wildcats alums see each other at the same churches, the same stores.
So on Friday night, for the 45th time, they met again at Ragsdale-Boykin Field. Pregame, student sections blasted music and chanted at one another. During the fourth quarter, already winning, a Trinity coach muttered on the sidelines, "I want 40 (points) tonight."
After 60 minutes, a historically close rivalry produced one of its more lopsided editions. Trinity (8-2, 6-1 Class 3A, Region 4) routed St. James, 33-7, in the final game before the playoffs. Trinity forced four turnovers, four sacks and found success in the air and on the ground after pivoting its gameplan.
For the fifth time this season, the Wildcats limited an offense to fewer than 10 points. Friday's main victim was quarterback K.J. Jackson.
They pressured the freshman constantly, even rushing six or seven once the score was decided. They forced a run-first quarterback to throw and Jackson didn't have enough time to locate his receivers.
Coleman Stanley started for Trinity. The mobile quarterback usually comes off the bench, but instead Shook wanted to establish the run early. It worked. The Wildcats finished with 5.7 yards per carry.
Once the Trojans (7-3, 6-1 Class 4A, Region 2) lined up eight white jerseys in the box, senior John David Bonner entered and capitalized on one-on-one matchups on the boundary. Parker Patterson scored his two touchdowns on such plays, his only catches, by boxing out a smaller defensive back and out-jumping them. Bonner finished with 174 passing yards and four touchdowns
Later in the first half, a fumbled Trinity punt provided St. James with an opportunity near the red zone. But on three plays the Trojans netted zero yards of offense.
Shook credited his team's discipline to snuff out bubble screens and short passes. Jackson never looked comfortable, often throwing into double-coverage. His usually high-powered read-option with Cosner Harrison went nowhere. Once Trinity led by multiple scores, the defensive line could feast on dropbacks.
“Our staff had a good gameplan on both sides of the ball," Shook said. " … We played a cat and mouse game.”
In the fourth quarter, St. James ran a fake end-around that was supposed to result in a pass from Harrison to Jackson. Instead, senior cornerback Jon Everett Dennis jumped the route and kept the Trinity stands cheering.
The win capped off Shook's first regular-season as Trinity's coach. After three middling years, Friday was a testament to how quickly the program has improved. Ahead of the playoffs next weekend, Trinity finished one game away from being the top seed in the region.
“Beating is St. James is great," Shook said. " … But we have our sights set higher.”