NORMAL — With a steady rain falling at Hancock Stadium on Friday, MacArthur coach Derek Spates felt throwing the ball might be risky.
So the Generals' quarterback, Deyon Jackson, turned into a running back, much to University High School's chagrin.
Jackson rushed for 186 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns. MacArthur's defense swarmed over U High quarterback Dawson Brooks as the Generals took a convincing 34-7 victory over the Pioneers in a Central State Eight Conference game.
“He's a good runner and breaks tackle,” said U High coach John Johnson of Jackson. “We don't block on offense and we don't tackle on defense yet. We're going to work on it. He must have made four or five fourth-and-eights. It was just missed tackles in the backfield. It's something we have to work on.”
U High, which mustered only 91 yards of total offense, fell to 0-3 overall and in the league. The Pioneers averted a shutout when Brooks connected on a 25-yard TD pass to Parker Mathieson with 4:27 left.
That merely cut MacArthur's lead to 28-7. The Generals (3-0, 3-0) closed things out on Derrick Taylor's 20-yard scamper into the end zone with 1:53 left.
“With the conditions, some things in our offense I didn't feel very comfortable throwing the ball a lot,” said Spates, as Jackson went 5 of 6 for 33 yards. “Of course, we were finding some holes and executed. He (Jackson) is a nifty guy who can make some people miss. He did some nice things tonight.”
MacArthur's defense chased Brooks out of the pocket the entire game and never gave him much time to find a receiver. U High finished with minus-8 net yards rushing as the Generals trapped Brooks behind the line seven times.
“We just don't have the linemen, it's that simple,” said Johnson. “We're a small school. We're in this conference and it's a very physical conference. Right now we're having trouble competing, especially upfront.”
Brooks completed 12 of 32 attempts for 99 yards as he was constantly harassed by MacArthur's linemen and blitzers.
“Our defense is where we hang our hat on,” said Spates. “We get after it and try to be fast and physical.”
MacArthur gained 320 of its 355 yards rushing. Jeffery Wells added 93 yards on 17 carries, while Taylor gained all his 52 yards in the second half on eight carries with two TDs.
“To get beat by this much, at home, in a rainstorm ... we're a passing team because we don't have the horses,” said Johnson. “If you can't run and pass the ball, you can't do much.”
Late in the first quarter, MacArthur started a 14-play, 96-yard drive, aided by a U High pass interference call on third-and-16. Jackson raced 25 yards into the end zone on fourth-and-four, with Dylan Diaz converting to put the Generals ahead, 7-0, with 7:47 left until halftime.
After U High went three-and-out on offense, MacArthur was on the move again. Jackson's 6-yard TD run with 3:54 left until halftime gave the Generals a 13-0 lead after a bad snap foiled the extra-point attempt.
U High mustered only 39 yards of offense, including one yard rushing, in the first half.
MacArthur could have put the game away early in the third quarter. But Jackson fumbled at U High's 2-yard line and the Pioneers' Caleb Gonzalez recovered in the end zone.
The Generals' AJ Lawson intercepted an errant Brooks pass and ran 26 yards for a score with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Taylor's conversion run gave MacArthur a 21-0 lead.
Taylor upped the advantage to 28-0 on a 3-yard run and a Diaz extra-point kick with 7:51 left.
After losing to ranked teams in Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and Rochester the first two weeks, Johnson said U High felt confident about its chances against MacArthur. But the Generals dominated almost from the opening kickoff.
“I told them on Monday (in practice) we have to block and tackle. We have to play the schedule dealt us,” said Johnson. “Step up and be a man. I told them don't point fingers at one another. You can blame me, that's fine, but don't point on your brothers. We had some of that tonight, but that's because they're frustrated and they're kids.”