TUSCALOOSA, Ala., - Good teams seemingly always find a way to win close games.
Jess Laneir jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half only to have Northridge rally back and tie things up in the fourth quarter. But the Tigers were able to keep their perfect record intact with two late scores to win 28-14 on the road.
"We came in at 6-0 and knew there was a target on us," said Jess Lanier four-star Auburn commitment LaDarius Owens. "You can't take any team lightly. We let them get back into the game but the defense stepped it up and gladly the offense got it going and we were able to come out with a victory."
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The Tigers showed a balanced offensive attack picking up 175 yards through the air and another 111 on the ground on the damp playing surface.
"The offense did a great job," Owens said. "We are one of the top scoring offenses in the state and coach was disappointed in the mistakes that the offense made today but we are going to fix it when we get back to practice. I'm glad they kept their heads up even though they were frustrated at times and finally got it together late in the game."
Jess Lanier quarterback Judah Fuller only connected on 6 of 14 passing for 175 yards but three of his completions went for scores. Fuller tossed touchdowns of 30, 34 and 50 yards and also ran in the Tigers other score on a 9-yard run.
Shaquille Hunter led the Jess Lanier receivers catching two passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
William Grayson paced the Tigers ground game with 46 yards on seven carries.
Jess Lanier got things going early on their second possession of the game. Fuller hooked up with Marcus Gibbs on a 50-yard scoring strike for the first touchdown with 5:12 in the first quarter. Justin Rogers came on to kick the extra point taking a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers extended their advantage on their first drive of the second quarter. Jess Lanier drove 73 yards in only five plays scoring on a 9-yard keeper by Fuller. Rogers again booted the point after putting his team ahead 14-0.
Northridge got their first break of the game midway through the third quarter. Fred Carter came up with a fumble for the Jaguars at the Jess Lanier 29-yard line.
Four plays later, Northridge lined up in the wildcat formation with three-star wide receiver and Mississippi State commitment Malcolm Johnson lined up behind center. Johnson took the snap running right and plunged across the goal line from 4-yards out.
"I lined up in the wildcat formation and it was supposed to be 18 stretch," Johnson said. "I was supposed to run it out to the sideline but they had some fast defensive ends and had it stretched out so I knew I had to cut it in."
Griffin Randolph's PAT bounced off the right upright keeping the score 14-6.
The Jaguars would battle back to tie things up with 5:52 remaining in the game. Northridge took over at midfield after an 11-yard punt return by Johnson. Six plays later Brooks Burns rolled left on a naked bootleg and found Jason Jones on a 22-yard touchdown pass.
The Jaguars lined up for a two-point conversion. Burns dropped back and tossed it up to Johnson in the corner of the end zone. Johnson was double covered but leaped higher and wrestled the ball away from the two defenders and came down with the game-tying play.
"The game was fun and competitive," Johnson said. "I went to camp with a lot of these guys and had been talking about it all summer. I made the catch over them and did a little talking. It was fun and highly competitive."
However the score would not remain nodded for long. Jess Lanier went 65 yards in five plays on the ensuing drive retaking the lead on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Fuller to Mario Wren. Rogers again kicked the point after for the 21-14 lead with 4:33 left.
The Tigers put the finishing touches on the win after their defense stopped Northridge on fourth down at their own 32-yard line. Fuller found Hunter from 34-yards out with 1:38 remaining on the clock. Rogers came on for the PAT for the final points of the game.
The Jaguars accumulated 248 yards on the night with 178 yards through the air and another 70 on the ground.
"It was a good game," Johnson said. "We started off shooting ourselves in the foot with some simple stuff. But after we calmed down and started playing ball things started going our way. It came down to the last minute and if we would've made a couple of more plays here or there it would have been a whole other story."
Johnson finished with 94 all-purpose yards with one touchdown and one two-point conversion. He hauled in five catches for 57 yards and rushed six times for negative three-yards and also returning three punts for 40 yards.
Burns hit on 14 of 21 passing for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Justin Pruitt picked up 42 yards on 11 carries to lead the way rushing for Northridge, who fell to 3-4 on the season.
Owens led Jess Lanier from his left defensive end spot with eight tackles, four stops for loss and one sack.
"We knew that (Northridge) was one of the bigger teams that we play," Owens said. "We knew that they were going to be hard-nosed and had nothing to lose. We knew they were going to throw everything at us and we had to prepare mentally not to overlook them because we have a big game next week. We kept everybody's heads down to earth and handle business out here. This game let us know that we can stick together as a team and fight together. I think it brings the team closer together and hopefully keep things going and use the momentum in learning how to finish."