The hours of preparation and practice all led to the opening game of the 2014 season for the Bartow High School Yellow Jackets. The squad would have the home field advantage to meet the Auburndale Bloodhounds.
Auburndale won the toss and elected to defer, a decision that looked like a mistake when Tre Jordan gathered in the kick at the 10, came up the middle, then broke outside for an apparent 90-yard touchdown. The dash was called back by a Bartow penalty and the offense went to work. Auburndale obviously did their homework, keying on running back Tyreese Cruz and holding him to short gains. The Hounds racked up a pair of offsides and a face mask penalty, which allowed Bartow to keep moving. The drive stalled at the Auburndale 36 and Bartow elected to go for it. Again, the Auburndale defense rose up and the visitors took over on offense.
Auburndale started their ground attack and was making it work with 14 yards in the first two carries by Wilbur Cooper, who used his speed to get outside. Bartow’s defense had seen enough and stopped any further movement. Auburndale elected to go on fourth down and the runner was stopped for no gain.
Bartow had a short gain nullified by a holding call and that inspired Auburndale. The defense knocked back Troy Jones and Cruz for losses for a Matt Martin punt. The kicker helped the cause with a 46 yard boot to pin Auburndale at the 25. After a running play, Auburndale went to the air with a 53 yard completion to the 20. Cooper hustled outside and scored on the next play and the extra point gave Auburndale a 7-0 margin with 2:35 to go in the first quarter.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to add to their lead. After Bartow quarterback TJ Harvin ran for 11 and Cruz had a short gain, Bartow went to the air. Harvin couldn’t connect on his first attempt and his second pass was pulled out of the air by a Bloodhound linebacker, who took it all the way for a 29 yard score. The extra point was blocked.
Bartow’s offense failed to generate a first down as the first quarter ended and Martin kicked it away again. Auburndale found themselves with a fourth and four and elected to go for it. The effort by running back Jesse Britt gave them the first by inches, but only a few yards followed. With the team in punt formation, Bartow’s defense charged through with Ronald Robinson blocking the kick and scooping up the ball for a touchdown run. Chris Ramirez tacked on the extra point to bring Bartow within 13-7 with 8:04 to play in the half.
Auburndale assumed the ball at the 20 and running back Britt dragged the pile for a first down. Britt got the ball two plays later and exploded up the middle of the field, darting away from defenders for a 68 yard touchdown dash. The two-point attempt fell short and Auburndale led 19-7.
Bartow’s next possession opened strong with Cruz busting loose for 18. Harvin found Jordan for a 17 yard gain, but the drive stalled. Martin kicked his third punt of the night. As the teams were changing field, lightning made its presence known and the game was suspended immediately at 8:30 local time with 2:38 to play in the half.
After waiting for 40 minutes, officials concluded that the situation was getting worse instead of better and called the contest, giving Auburndale a 19-7 win.
The Jackets will host the Lake Gibson Braves next Friday Sept. 5. Kickoff time is 7:30 p.m.