ATHENS — Muscle Shoals faced a classic trap game against East Limestone on Friday night, and for almost a whole half, the Trojans were trapped.
One week after a last-minute victory over defending state champion Hartselle, the Class 5A No. 1-ranked Trojans came out flat against the Indians and found themselves in a 7-7 tie with time running down in the second quarter.
But Ryan Ware’s 65-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Jackson with 55 seconds before halftime gave Muscle Shoals the momentum it needed, and it went on to dominate the second half in a 42-7 victory over the Indians.
“We really needed that,” Jackson said. “We needed that spark to get us going. It’s always good to go to halftime with momentum.”
Both Jackson and Ware admitted the Trojans were lacking in focus during the first half one week after they scored a huge 28-21 victory over Hartselle.
“We put so much focus on the team that everybody wanted us to beat that we lost sight of what was coming down the road,” Jackson said. “This was a big game for East Limestone. They needed a win to stay in the playoff race and it was their homecoming. But we had to show why we’re No. 1 and take back control of the game.”
East Limestone took the lead less than three minutes into the game on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Franks to Tristain Matthews and bottled up Muscle Shoals’ offense for most of the first half.
The Trojans tied the game on a 39-yard touchdown run by Jamarcus Nance late in the first quarter but had another touchdown and two other big plays called back because of penalties.
“We came out real sluggish,” Ware said. “We came off that big victory last week and it looked like we didn’t have our heads on straight. But that play right before halftime gave us some motivation going into the locker room. We had the motivation to know that we could get some stuff going.”
And that’s exactly what the Trojans did in the second half. Muscle Shoals took the opening kickoff and quickly marched down the field for the first of three third-quarter touchdowns.
Jackson completed the drive with a 43-yard touchdown run to give the Trojans control of the game.
After forcing an East Limestone punt, Muscle Shoals again pounced quickly, as Nance broke off a 44-yard run that gave the Trojans a first down at the Indians’ 12-yard line.
Jackson scored on a 3-yard touchdown run three plays later to give the Trojans a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter.
The Trojans defense then put the game away for good just over a minute later, as Demarian King returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown.
Ware capped off the night of big plays for the offense early in the fourth quarter when he hit Nance on a deep post for an 82-yard touchdown pass.
Nance finished the game with 153 yards rushing on 11 carries and 92 yards receiving on two catches.
“We gave up way too many big plays,” East Limestone coach Jeff Pugh said. “You can’t do that and expect to beat Muscle Shoals. You’ve got to make them drive the field and we weren’t able to do that.”
Ware had a big night with limited opportunities, as he threw for 177 yards and two touchdowns on just five completions.
“When I get a pass play called I want to take advantage of it,” Ware said. “Coach (Scott) Basden is a running type of guy so when I get a pass play called I want to show what I can do throwing the ball.”