Lightning and a power outage caused delays at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium Saturday night as Jones hosted Miami Northwestern in a preseason football kickoff classic.
The visiting Bulls capitalized defensively, running for more than 200 yards while pulling away from Jones for a 42-24 win. The game was played in front of an announced crowd of more than 9,000 fans.
The Tigers made it 14-10 at 3:58 in the first half when senior Jayden Gillens returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown down the home touchline. But Jones fumbled the ball away on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter and never recovered.
“Our boys didn’t give up. They fought the whole game,” said Jones coach Elijah Williams. “We were in the game and we had chances but we made some expensive mistakes. You can’t leave them hanging around with a team like that.”
Jones and Northwestern both reached the FHSAA Class 6A State semifinals last season. Saturday’s meeting was the first between the programs since Northwestern defeated Jones 34-17 in a 2019 state championship game at Daytona Stadium.
Jones competed in the Legacy Classic competition hosted by Florida Citrus Sports, with a 5-0 record at Camping World since the program returned full-time to its on-campus stadium in 2012.
Antwan Williams Jr. returned a Jones fumble for a touchdown late in the third quarter to put the game 28-10 out of reach. That TD came after the Bulls twice swapped to fourth in the opening drive of the second half, clearing the way for senior Jamari Ford to reach the end zone for the third time.
Ford helped Northwestern to a 90-yard drive by scoring on a 6-yard run in fourth place in the first quarter. Four games later, he returned a punt for more than 50 yards to give the Bulls a 14-0 advantage.
Jones stopped in the red zone on his next possession and opted for a 31-yard field goal from Junior Johnley David. The Tigers walked away with nothing in the first half after senior Christopher Tooley caught a loose ball out of the air after a forced fumble and junior James Chenault intercepted a pass in the end zone.
A fumbled recovery from Jones senior DJ McCray in the third quarter was wasted as Williams recovered on his own and scored the next game for the Bulls.
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Inconsistency on offense was a theme that plagued the Tigers for most of the evening. Jones turned the ball on downs on his first two possessions and was held for under 100 yards through the fourth quarter.
Senior Dylan Wade rushed for a 2-yard TD and Derrick Rogers caught a 12-yard pass for a touchdown in the second half.
The start of the game was delayed by 52 minutes due to a lightning strike and a further 16 minutes when the stadium lights went out in the third quarter at 3:13 a.m.
Despite the result, Williams, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday, was pleased to field his team at runners-up Cocoa before the start of the regular season on Friday.
Jones was one of only a handful of Orlando-area teams to get a preseason game. Most of the games scheduled for Friday have been canceled due to bad weather.
“We just needed this game to clean up a few things,” Williams said. “We have a couple of guys who thought they were better than they were [tonight] and they saw that they still have work to do. Overall, this will help our team.”
This article originally appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email JC Carnahan at [email protected]