JUNCTION CITY – Class 2A No. 1 Junction City made a statement on Friday night in its home opener against Class 3A No. 5 Smackover as the Dragons jumped out to a 34-12 halftime lead, before improving to 1-1 on the young season with a 42-18 win over the Buckaroos in the 43rd meeting all-time between the two Union County foes. The Dragons move to 15-6 in home openers dating back to the 1999 season and the win marks the 25th victory for Junction City over Smackover in the series.
The Dragons (1-1) controlled the football for just 2:12 during the opening quarter of action, but it was a pair of special team touchdowns from senior Harlandus Frazier that started the fireworks early from Paul H. Muse Field at David Carpenter Stadium as all three phases of the Junction City attack were well oiled on Friday night.
Frazier wasted no time putting the Dragons on the scoreboard as he fielded the opening kickoff at his own 22-yard line and raced by multiple Buckaroos near the home sideline for a 78-yard return touchdown ten seconds into the ballgame.
Following a three-and-out by Smackover on its first offensive drive of the game, Frazier would add a 14-yard reception from classmate quarterback Brady Hutcheson to his impressive first quarter all-purpose ledger, but the drive would end deep in Buckaroo territory on the next play as the Dragons lost the first of what would be three fumbles on Friday night.
A consecutive three-and-out from the Buckaroo offense resulted in Frazier finding pay dirt for the second time as he took the football on a bounce at his own-40-yard line and used a formidable wall of purple jerseys on his way to the end zone for a 60-yard punt return touchdown.
Down 14 with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter, Smackover responded with a 60-yard drive that took 2:11 and was capped off by a 10-yard scoring plunge from Austin Goodwin. After a blocked point after attempt, Junction City led 14-6 and would carry that short-lived eight-point advantage into the second quarter, before the Buckaroos struck for six more points to end a 67-yard drive just thirty seconds into the quarter.
A failed two-point pass kept the Dragons out front at 14-12 early on in the second quarter, but Junction City would respond offensively with three touchdowns before the intermission.
On the ensuing drive for the Dragons, Hutcheson showed off his big arm with a 41-yard connection to junior Devontay Gilbert that placed the football at the Buckaroo 19-yard line. On the next play, senior Jamie Carroll carried for 18 yards on a hard run and came up less than a yard shy of crossing the goal line. Hutcheson snuck in from a yard out, but a failed two-point try would keep the Buckaroos within one possession of the Dragon lead at 20-12.
One week after carrying thirty times for 138 yards, senior running back Jakiron Cook got in on the scoring act for Junction City following another three-and-out forced by a Dragon defense that is beginning to come into its own.
Cook ran for 29 yards on that second scoring drive of the quarter for Junction City which included a two-yard touchdown run. Also on the drive, Hutcheson again connected with Frazier for 39 yards along the Dragon sideline to put Junction City in the purple zone and after the Cook score sophomore Jamal Johnson ran in the two-point try as lead grew to 28-12 with 4:56 to play in the first half.
Smackover’s next drive would eat up 4:05 of clock, but the 41 seconds left in the half after the Dragons turned the Buckaroos over on downs would be more than enough time for the Junction City offense to strike.
It also wouldn’t matter that the Dragons had all three time outs with the football at their own 45-yard line. A quick release by Hutcheson on a pass behind the line of scrimmage found Frazier and the electric playmaker did the rest as he received a block down field which helped him on his way to a 55-yard score as Junction City went up 34-12 on the one play, ten second drive.
The lone score by the Dragons in the second half came from Johnson as he ripped off a 41-yard scamper that left multiple defenders in his wake for his second touchdown in as many weeks. Hutcheson’s two-point run was successful and Junction City led 42-12.
The game’s final score came in the fourth quarter as backside pressure on Hutcheson forced a fumble which the Buckaroos’ D’Kylan Hildreth returned for a touchdown.
Defensively, Cook led the Dragons with 11 tackles and junior Kam Torrence followed with six. Gilbert intercepted a pass; his second of the season. Junction City held Smackover to a 13.3% (2-for-15) conversion rate on third down in addition to allowing just 181 total yards of offense with 127 of those yards coming on the Buckaroos’ two scoring drives in the first half.
Hutcheson finished with 144 yards on 6-of-7 passing. Frazier totaled 246 all-purpose yards on five touches and scored three times. Cook recorded 86 all-purpose yards and Johnson averaged 10.4 yards per carry.
Junction City faces a bye in Week 2, but returns to action on Friday, September 20, for a cross-state battle with perennial Louisiana powerhouse Haynesville. The Golden Tornado knocked off the Dragons 33-0 last season in Haynesville, before Junction City rattled off 11-straight wins to claim the Class 2A State Title. Kickoff from Paul H. Muse Field at David Carpenter Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.
Fans can catch all of the action live on the Dragon Sports Network via YouTube and on FM 101.5 The Hog.