DECATUR — MacArthur's defense kept the Generals in the lead Saturday in their Central State Eight matchup with Jacksonville played at Millikin University's Lindsay Field.
As the Crimsons were looking to steal the game in the final moments, the Generals' defense came to the rescue again, finalizing MacArthur's win 20-14.
MacArthur's defensive line, led by seniors Malik Barbee and Tylan Jackson bottled up the Crimsons run game, allowing just one run over 20 yards the entire game.
After a long 65-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Maul to Jordan White, Jacksonville running back Chris Pulley plowed in for the touchdown in the first quarter.
The MacArthur defense wouldn't allow the Crimsons in the end zone again until the fourth quarter.
In the second quarter, Generals defensive back Brylon Young picked off Maul and returned it all the way for a 65-yard touchdown. Young also displayed some fancy footwork as he avoided the scrambling Crimsons' offense.
Also in the second quarter, MacArthur running back Jeffrey Wells showed his speed around the corner as he broke a 75-yard run for another score.
"The line did their assignment right and we stayed together as a unit and we all did what we were supposed to do. It turned out good for us," Wells said of his long run.
The Generals (2-0) took at 14-7 lead into halftime and although they had the lead, MacArthur coach Derek Spates was not happy with his team's performance.
"I don't like the execution. I don't like what I'm seeing out here. We are fumbling the ball, too many penalties and it seemed like we played the whole first half from the 20 to the goal line. It's ridiculous," he said.
In the third quarter, MacArthur quarterback Deyon Jackson connected on his only touchdown of the game to AJ Lawson for a 35-yard score.
Jacksonville finally broke their scoring drought in the fourth, when Tyger Vaniter scampered for 20-yard touchdown run to bring the Crimsons within one score at 20-14.
On Jacksonville's next possession the Generals' defense forced a turnover on downs but the Generals then quickly fumbled the ball, giving the Crimsons one last chance.
But it was MacArthur's defense to the rescue one last time as Wells intercepted Maul's pass and returned it deep into Jacksonville's territory, sealing the game.
"I was going so fast, we have been practicing those plays in practice and we knew they were going to throw it and it was late in the fourth and they needed a score and I knew it was coming so I took my reads," Wells said.
According to Wells, the MacArthur defense has a family feeling.
"I think our defense is pretty good this year. We worked really hard in the summer. We're a team, I know we argue some times but that's love," he said. "But I know we could have done a little better tonight."
Spates said Wells gives his all on both sides of the ball.
"Jeff plays hard for us each and every down. He gets some great hits in and that interception saved the game for us. Our defense rose to the occasion and saved us again." Spates said.
As the Generals' schedule hits its stride, they will have to play better.
"We got lucky enough to get a win. The defense is writing the story of our season so far. We are playing just well enough to win, to barely win. I'm not saying that (Jacksonville's) a bad football team and we should have blown them out," Spates said. "We can build from this win. My guys have to understand what it takes to play well and to win in this conference."
The Generals' coach puts the pressure squarely on his own shoulders.
"It's my fault as a coach because I can't get through to a group of guys who have some talent. I'm not doing it well enough to get through to a group of guys to make them perform the way they need to perform," he said. "There is something that I'm not doing as a coach that they aren't getting from me so I have to be better in that aspect for our team to play well. The pressure is on me and I can handle that."