Fort Middle School head football coach John Simpson said he knew after the 2016 season that his 2017 team was shaping up to be special. On Thursday night, Simpson’s Patriots put the finishing touches on an extraordinary season.
Fort beat Richards 20-6 to finish the season undefeated and capture its first championship since 1994. The Patriots’ victory came courtesy a great game on the ground from Jaimel Johnson and Leon Davis as well an impressive defensive effort led by Peanut Foster, who had two interceptions.
“It was a long journey,” Simpson said. “I knew they were going to be able to accomplish their goals. It just means a lot to me that I was able to coach this group of young men and bring them a championship.”
Davis scored the first two touchdowns of the game, finding the end zone on a 17-yard run in the first quarter and on a 4-yard run in the third quarter to put Fort ahead 13-0. Richards cut the deficit in the final seconds of the third when Jamie Jackson made a miraculous catch off a couple of deflections in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown reception.
Richards threatened to keep the momentum rolling after Jackson’s touchdown, which was thrown by Jonathan Powell. After the score, the kickoff was fumbled and recovered by the Warriors. After that Richards drive stalled out, Fort muffed the ensuing punt, which Richards recovered.
The Warriors put together one final nine-play drive that reached the red zone, but a stop on fourth down led to a turnover on downs. Johnson finally added a touchdown to his night, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run with three seconds left in the game.
“Since last year, we were just waiting to get back to the playoffs,” said Johnson, who had 13 carries for 122 yards and one touchdown. “(Running the ball well) was good, but I have to thank my offensive linemen. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
As crucial as the run game was, the defensive effort for the Patriots meant just as much. Fort ended the regular season averaging two points allowed per game, and that rigid defense was on display at Kinnett Stadium.
When the clock finally hit triple zeroes, Foster could hardly contain his excitement.
“This is the first time winning ever in my life. This was my first win with a great team, and I just love it out here,” Foster said. “It just felt so amazing, knowing the score was 20-6. Nobody could beat Fort.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports