by Eric Clutter | Correspondent
Kent -- After last week's 42-7 loss to Aurora, Kent Roosevelt head coach Tim King was adamant that his young team had made strides during its fourth straight loss and would continue to do so throughout the remainder of the season.
It only took one week for King's players to make him look like a prophet.
Senior slot receiver Kameron Jackson took an end-around handoff from Rough Riders' quarterback Nathan Jones and raced 39 yards into the end zone with 10 minutes, 1 second left in the game, lifting host Kent to its first victory of the season, a 20-17 Suburban League American Conference win over Tallmadge Sept. 23.
"That's something we worked on this past week," King said. "Jackson has become one of our explosive players and we were looking for ways to get him the ball.
"It was a little misdirection play for us and we got some excellent blocks downfield, especially from Demetrius Jones-Wright, and the line just did a great job. They fought all night."
After Jackson's TD, the Rough Riders had to sweat things out over the remainder of the game. But Kent's defense come up big twice in the final quarter.
Trailing 17-13, Kent's defense forced a turnover on downs on the second play of the fourth quarter, giving Jones and his offense the ball at the Rough Riders' 43-yard line.
Four plays later, Jackson found paydirt to give Kent its first lead of 2016.
Following Jackson's score, Tallmadge (2-3, 0-1) methodically began to move down the field in search of a game-tying field goal or a go-ahead TD. And despite a couple of penalties which briefly took them off schedule, the Blue Devils eventually found themselves looking at a first and 10 from the Rough Riders' 24 with 5:14 to go in the game.
But once again, Tallmadge hurt itself when quarterback Derek Teeling fumbled the snap from center and recovered for a seven-yard loss. Two running plays netted five yards to create a fourth-and-11 from the 26 with 3:33 showing on the clock.
Feeling that the down and distance was too great, Blue Devils' first-year head coach Alan Vanderink elected to send out senior kicker Jadon Wolf to attempt a potential game-tying 43-yard field goal.
If it were any shorter than fourth-and-11, we were going to go for it," Vanderink said. "That's what the situation was and our kicker has a strong leg. We felt it was a good distance for him and that's why we did it.
Wolf's boot never had a chance, though, falling well short of its destination and giving Kent the ball at the 20 with only one time-out left.
The Rough Riders ran the ball three consecutive times and were on the verge of having to punt the ball back to Tallmadge, but Kent got some help from the Blue Devils to seal the game.
On third and 14 from the 16, Jones ran straight ahead for a very short gain. However, after the play, Tallmadge was flagged for a critical personal foul that gave Kent a first down with 2:07 left. Jones carried on first down before taking two knees to run out the clock.
"Both teams were playing really hard wanting to get the win," Vanderink said. "Mistakes happen and whoever made the least amount of mistakes was getting out of that stadium with a win. And I felt Kent made the least amount of mistakes."
Jones made the start in place of starting quarterback Kelvon Blackmon, who was out with a lower leg injury that the junior sustained against Aurora. Jones finished 5-of-7 for 42 yards and also rushed for an additional 33 yards.
Matthew Perison and Joe Horvath combined for 90 yards in 20 carries as the Rough Riders (1-4, 1-1) used a ground-and-pound attack to amass 162 yards as a team.
The Blue Devils used the same approach as Teeling, who replaced injured starter Sam Seeker, only attempted two passes, completing one and throwing an interception that Kent's Bradley McMullen latched onto at the home team's 36 early in the second quarter. That ignited a 12-play, 64-yard drive that Perison punctuated with a 3-yard run to cut Tallmadge's lead to 10-7.
The Blue Devils regained a 10-point cushion midway through the third quarter when Ty Shannon scored on a 1-yard run. The junior finished with 29 carries for 146 yards.
The Rough Riders bounced back impressively, executing a 13-play, 80-yard march late in the third quarter that Jones capped with a 1-yard run. However, the extra point failedand the score stood 17-13 heading to the fourth quarter.
Tallmadge established a 10-0 lead in the first quarter when Garrett Ansley kicked a 22-yard field goal and Caiden Genovese returned a fumble 40 yards for a score.
The Blue Devils were scheduled to return to Thomas Rossiaky Stadium to host American Conference rival Copley Sept. 30. Results were not available at press time.
Tallmadge is set to visit American Conference foe Barberton Oct. 7 at Rudy Sharkey Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.