The Bartow Yellow Jackets returned home after a brief road trip, looking to get back on track after two straight losses. The task would not be an easy one as district rival Kathleen would provide the opposition. The Red Devils were unblemished in their district campaign, losing only to First Academy in a non-conference game.
Bartow won the opening toss and chose to put the defense in play, deferring possession to the start of the second half. As the homecoming crowd welcomed the team to the field, the Bartow coaches huddled to get the game plan into play.
The game opened with an intentional short kicker that was caught as a fair catch at the 20. Kathleen couldn’t get anything going on their first possession and sent the punt team to the field. Devon McCoy took the ball at the 39, but Bartow could not move the ball. Dimitri Leverett tried to find open receivers, but time ran out and he was sacked for a pair of three yard losses. Leverett got time on the next play, but defensive back Dietrich Williams stepped in and intercepted the pass. It took Kathleen one play to strike when quarterback Kevin Wilson found a streaking Javon Harrison for a 37-yard touchdown. Gildardo Mata added the extra point as Kathleen led 7-0 at the 7:21 mark.
The Jackets watched the kickoff tumble to the end zone and set up shop at the 20. Leverett found Matt Martin for a short gain, then handed Martin the ball on a sweep for a short gain. The third down play failed to gain the needed yardage, so Martin went back in punt formation. His kick came down to Harrison at the 46, who threaded his way through the Bartow defends and added another touchdown. With Mata’s extra point, the score stood Kathleen leading 14-0 with 5:23 to go.
Things got worse in a hurry for the home team. After another drive stalled, Martin went into punt formation. The snap sailed over his head and toward the end zone. Malcolm Lanier of Kathleen fell on the ball at the one and the Red Devils were in business again. Wilson kept the ball on a quarterback sneak for the third touchdown of the quarter. Mata’s third PAT came at the 3:03 mark, giving Kathleen a 21-0 lead.
Bartow picked up their first first down on the game with a Leverett to Troy Jones pass that gained 14. Two plays later, a Jackets running back lost the handle, the third turnover of the game. Subsequent gains of more than 10 pushed the ball to the four as the quarter ran out. Two plays into the new period, Wilson went to the air and found Harrison on a simple slant. The extra point missed and the score stood at 27-0 with 10:40 to go in the half.
As expected, the kickoff went to the end zone and Bartow’s offense came out to try to get something going. On the first play, Leverett floated a pass to Tyreese Cruz, but the ball was high. As Cruz went airborne, he was hit by a defender. After a few minutes, Cruz was able to get up and head to the sidelines. On the next play, Jones and Leverett couldn’t connect on a pitch and Kathleen swooped in to claim the ball at the 20.
This time, Bartow would get a break. Harrison took a screen and started up the near sideline. As he was being tackled, he dropped the ball, which bounced right into the hands of a Bartow defender. It was another three and out as Martin punted again. Harrison pushed the return to the 36. Kathleen became its own worst enemy in their attempt to add to the score. On five occasions, Kathleen was called for an offensive penalty, including one that nullified a 28 yard screen pass score from Wilson to Harrison. Undaunted, the Red Devils kept pushing forward when Anthony Ware picked his way off right tackle for the last 9 yards to pay dirt. Mata found the spot again to get his fourth extra point. The scoreboard showed 3:50 to play in the half.
Bartow got no positive yards after Leverett was sacked twice and an incomplete pass sent Martin to the end zone for another punt. He was able to get the kick away, a 32 yarder that Harrison returned for 5. Penalties again cropped up, putting Kathleen in a third and deep hole after two incompletions. For the first time since the opening drive, Kathleen was forced to punt and it gave Bartow possession at the 10.
Cruz brightened the possession with a 15 yard gain, but hobbled off the field. The final play saw a fumbled snap that Leverett covered for a five yard loss as the half ended with Kathleen on top 34-0.
Bartow’s objectives were clear. The offense had to stop allowing Kathleen to create negative yardage plays as Bartow experienced eight of them in the first half. The Jackets found inspiration coming out of the break. After the kickoff went into the end zone, the offense came out with a mission. Cruz carried for a couple of short gainers before Leverett found McCoy to move the chains, thanks to a 21 yard gain. Leverett took a sack, but the offensive refused to quit. Jabray Chisholm ripped off a 36 yard gain to get Bartow rolling. Cruz caught a pass for 20 more and Bartow had their first opportunity of first and goal. Cruz and Chisholm took a crack at breaking through, but it was Leverett who got the job done. Alex Montes kicked the point true and Bartow was on the board at 5:55 to play in the third.
Kathleen answered with a sustained drive of their own as time ticked away in the period. The Red Devils answered when Wilson fired a bullet to Marquis Young for a 13-yard touchdown. The score moved to 41-7 with 1:48 still in the third.
As Bartow prepared to start their next drive, Cruz hobbled from the huddle and remained on the sidelines. Leverett carried for 10 to start the drive, but it came after a false start penalty had made it first and 15. The drive stalled and another high snap over the head of Martin gave Kathleen great field position to start the fourth quarter. Rashard Whitehead got his first carry for Kathleen and scampered the 10 yards for the touchdown. The point after hit the upright.
Since the point differential was 40, a running clock was employed for the remainder of the game.
Bartow used Chisholm, who gained 14 yards before drawing plenty of attention from the defense who put a stop to his gains. Penalties started to stymie the drive with the ball of the 25. Leverett had the time to find a streaking Johnny Dixon who was five yards beyond the defenders. Dixon went 75 yards for the score to move Bartow into double digits with 3:50 to play.
The clock ran out with Kathleen holding the ball, spoiling the Bartow homecoming by the score of 47-14.
Bartow fell to 2-3 and 0-2 in district games, and will be on bye next week before hosting Lakeland. That game begins at 7 p.m.