All game long, North Florida Christian cornerback Armunz Mathews shadowed 6-foot-4 Chiles receiver John Mitchell.
One side to the other, the Timberwolves’ talented senior waited and took the short stop routes the defense gave with a cushion.
And then nearing the end of the third quarter, Mathews came up to press cover Mitchell at the line of scrimmage.
Mitchell beat the press and caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Landon Simpkins, and Chiles separated itself from NFC on that play to claim a 17-7 win.
“I just trust him that he’ll make plays and all I have to do is get him the ball,” Simpkins said.
“It was a planned play because (Mathews) was jumping on the hitches after the first three,” Mitchell said. “We called the hitch-and-go, it worked and was a beautiful play.”
Star of the game
Chiles sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Jones made the most of his limited time on the field.
On a tipped pass thrown by NFC quarterback Avery Thomas into the flat, Jones corralled the ricochet, then raced 60 yards for the game’s opening score.
“We actually went through that same situation in practice where I go for the pick-off attempt,” Jones said. “If we can’t get it, we try to tip it. I got it and didn’t even look back. I was just trying to score for my team.”
The play immediately quieted NFC’s crowd, while Chiles coach Garrett Jahn was quietly happy for his young player.
“If I could tell you more about him as a character kid, how hard he works in the Wright room. His manners, how he approaches life it would trump that pick-six like you never imagined,” Jahn said.
“I’m very glad we have him on our team. For the first time he really contributed where all the guys saw it with the pick-six. He set a little stamp in the locker room that I belong here with Kris Reed, John Mitchell and Shane Sanders.”
After the interception return, NFC (2-1) responded with a 10-play drive and Jay Harrison finished things off with a 24-yard touchdown run through a left-side hole.
The downside was starting running back Terrell Powell’s night came to an end the play before and he had a cast on his foot after the game.
Powell was averaging five yards per carry before he left.
“We let things go in the second half and didn’t do a good job tackling,” said Harrison, also a starting linebacker. “We did terrible tackling, driving them back.
“We’ve just got to go harder in practice. I think we slacked off during the week after a victory, but we’ve got to come back humble every week and bring it some more.”
Turnover on downs
The Eagles’ defense fought hard in the second half, stopping two Chiles drives on downs inside the 5-yard line and first-and-goal situations.
The downside was the Timberwolves chewed up 14 minutes of clock in combination even though they didn’t score.
However, NFC couldn’t muster the offense to take advantage.
“Our defense has been playing lights out, but then our back went down and that hurt us offensively,” Eagles coach Robert Craft said. “We thought we were moving in the right direction but kept moving backward.”
“But what a game for high school football. I’m excited about these two teams playing for years to come.”
On the first play of the game, Simpkins ran a naked bootleg and had no pass rush.
His first option along the sideline was covered, but Kris Reed ran a post backside and was wide open, no Eagles defender within 20 yards.
Simpkins didn’t see him and tucked the ball for a minimal gain.
“Maybe a little bit of coaching, putting something in someone’s ear, ‘If it’s covered, run it,'” Jahn said. “That was the last thing he heard and it’s like ‘Man, it wasn’t covered! Throw that thing!’ But in his head he was probably unsure. But then he bounced back.”
Simpkins finished 12 of 19 passing for 145 yards and the aforementioned touchdown to Mitchell, placed where only his guy could get it.
“It it’s a bad ball, it’s obviously my fault, but we just have to fix it,” Simpkins said. “We put it in the end zone. We fixed it.”
“I thought he threw maybe the best he has all year,” added Jahn.
Best week of practice
Coming off a 41-31 loss to Godby in which Chiles led going into the second half, the Timberwolves had the type of focus that Jahn knows his team needs to win consistently.
“I watched NFC’s film and I knew it wasn’t going to be a blow over, and in the Godby game we had some breaks go our way,” Jahn said. “Coaching-wise after you watch the film you’re still unsure are we that good or not. And we definitely took a step to prove that tonight.”
Mitchell caught six passes for 61 yards, Reed had five catches for 58 yards, and Sanders recovered from illness and a first-run fumble to rush for 73 yards on 21 carries.
“For our kids, they earned respect from the Godby players, talking to them about how good we were,” Jahn said. “Hearing it from peers, guys that have been to state last year, it was a huge confidence booster.”
And Chiles practiced like it was good, its best week yet according to Jahn. And it was the level of intensity that the Timberwolves will need to navigate a touch schedule and upcoming district games against Lincoln and Leon.
“We had a chip on our shoulder and we came in ready to play,” Mitchell said. “We worked as hard as we could all summer, and we’re here to show these teams that we rule the north side.”
CHILES 17, NFC 7
Chiles 0 10 7 0 — 17
NFC 0 7 0 0 — 7
C — Jeremiah Jones 60 interception return (Jake Robert Meyer kick)
NFC — Jay Harrison 24 run (Matt McCardle kick)
C — Meyer 25 field goal
C — John Mitchell 33 pass from Landon Simpkins (Meyer kick)
Passing— Chiles: Landon Simpkins 12-19-145-1-0; NFC, Avery Thomas 8-19-47-0-1, Marvin Scott 2-5-16-0-0
Rushing— Chiles: Shane Sanders 21-73, Daniel Wahlen 7-32, Simpkins 5-14, Logan Robinson 1-3, Kris Reed 1-3, Conner Harris 1-(-4); NFC, Terrell Powell 8-40, Jay Harrison 6-40, Thomas 6-20, Troy Jones 5-20, Phil Gardner 4-7, Korey Charles 1-1
Receiving— Chiles: John Mitchell 6-61, Reed 5-58, Sanders 1-26; NFC: Charles 5-13, Armunz Mathews 1-9, T.J Ashley 2-18, Chris Jerry 1-13, Nate Shafer 1-10
Chiles (2-1), NFC (2-1)
Taylor County at Chiles, Sept. 18; NFC at Hamilton County, Sept. 18