Jaguars keep playoff hopes alive

Spain Park High School running back Sean Mardis looks for an opening in the Thompson defense in the Jaguars' victory Oct. 21. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

HOOVER — Spain Park High School senior Jon Mwaituka and his teammates didn’t need a pre-game speech from coach Chip Lindsey before the Jaguars’ final Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A, Region 6 game Oct. 21 against Thompson.

With the Jaguars’ postseason hopes riding on the outcome, Mwaituka and his teammates didn’t need any extra motivation.

“We knew we had to come out with a high intensity,” Mwaituka said.

Spain Park kept its playoff chances alive with a 38-0 shut out against the Warriors, who dropped to 0-7 in Class 6A, Region 6 play in coach Caleb Ross’ first season at the helm.

Spain Park junior quarterback Nick Mullens tossed three touchdown passes to lead the Jaguars to a win in their final region game.

Mwaituka reeled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Mullens with 9:30 remaining in the opening quarter and Jake Hoffman added his first extra point to give Spain Park an early 7-0 lead.

Ashton Daniel found the end zone from 20 yards out with 5:05 left in the first quarter and Hoffman added his second extra point to push the Jaguars’ lead to 14-0. Sean Mardis capped the scoring in the opening quarter with his 31-yard touchdown run with 2:40 left in the first quarter. Hoffman’s third extra point gave Spain Park a 21-0 lead.

The Jaguars carried a 28-0 lead into the locker room at halftime following a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mullens to Hunter Kahn and another extra point by Hoffman with 6:19 left in the second quarter.

Thompson managed only three first downs in the opening half.

Spain Park pushed its lead to 31-0 following a 31-yard field goal by Hoffman with 8:28 remaining in the third quarter. Payton Gray reeled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Mullens and Hoffman kicked his fifth extra point with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter, which capped the scoring in the game.

Thompson drove deep into Spain Park territory midway through the fourth quarter, but the Warriors came up empty when kicker Matt Nall’s 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right of the uprights.

The Jaguars (5-4 overall, 4-3 in Class 6A, Region 6) still need a win against Clay-Chalkville in a non-region game Oct. 27 to feel comfortable about its playoff hopes.

Lindsey said the undefeated Cougars will provide a huge test for his Jaguars.

“It’s a chance to prove ourselves,” Lindsey said.

Ross, who came to Thompson after spending time as the offensive coordinator at Prattville, said he noticed a lot of progress in his team despite its lack of a region victory.

“It’s a tough region,” Ross said. “I knew that coming in. We’re trying to rebuild the program. We’re heading in the right direction.”