By Johnny Sanders, for The Tribune
LEEDS — Leeds welcomed in the Lincoln Bears on Friday night in a Class 5A, Region 6 matchup that went back and forth like a heavyweight boxing match in which the home team came out on top in the end. Great defense and a stellar performance by Jarod Latta and Joshua Ruff helped the Green Wave to a 21-14 victory and a 2-1 record on the young season.
The Lincoln Bears started the game with the ball and proceeded to march the ball down the field thanks to the tough running of Latavious Wilson and a big 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Poarch to wide receiver Jafrondric Davis with 7:03 left in the opening quarter. The Leeds offense would not be able to answer on their opening drive of the game, but the defense would hold Lincoln scoreless through the remainder of the first.
After forcing a second-quarter punt, Latta and company took over again at their own 47-yard-line, but this time the Green Wave would find more success moving the ball and found themselves inside the 5. On a third and goal from the 1, Joshua Ruff would line up in the backfield and take the wildcat snap and punch it into the end zone for his first of two touchdowns on the night. The PAT was good, and the home team tied the game at 7 heading into the break.
Leeds would start the second half with momentum and possession of the football on the opening drive. On a second and 2 from the 44-yard line, Latta found Ruff for a 56-yard touchdown that would be called back due to a holding penalty. So, the Green Wave offense proceeded to march the ball down the field and with 8:15 left in the quarter, the dynamic duo struck again, and this time it counted. Latta to Ruff for 31 yards and the go-ahead touchdown for Leeds. The Green Wave now found themselves ahead for the first time in the game, 14-7. Not to be outdone, the afore mentioned Latavious Wilson put the Lincoln offense on his back and gained 57 total yards on the next drive, including a 36-yard run that set him up at the 5-yard line on first and goal. From there, Wilson punched it in to tie the game with 4:21 left in the third.
Leeds would get the ball back and the Latta to Ruff show would continue, this time setting the Green Wave offense up at the 26-yard line and with everyone in the stadium thinking Latta was going to Ruff again, he found Brody Goodman who snuck across the middle of the field and found himself wide open for the 26-yard touchdown. With 1:10 left in the third quarter, the Green Wave were up 21-14.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lincoln Brian Garrett ran 87 yards down to the Leeds 9-yard line, setting up what seemed like an easy touchdown, with the way Wilson had ran the ball all night. The Leeds defense had other ideas, as they held the Bears out of the end zone 3 plays straight and ended the third quarter looking for a goal line stand at the 1-yard line.
The first play of the final quarter saw Latavious Wilson take the ball off the right end and see nothing but green, as the Leeds defense kept him out of the end zone on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line. Though the momentum was on their side, the Leeds offense would only move the ball 21 yards before having to punt it back to the Bears, but the defense was still licking their chops and would not allow even a first down on the next drive. Leeds got the ball back and found some success running the ball with Jeremiah Hunter. On a third and 4 from the 17, Joshua Ruff lined up at quarterback and found a wide open, falling down Christopher Stokes who made a great catch from the seat of his pants, but the play was called back for a penalty. This caused the Green Wave to settle for a field goal try that was missed wide left. Now, with 3:44 left in the game, Lincoln had the ball at their own 19-yardline. Poarch and company were driving the ball down the field and had gotten to the 50 and on third and 17, he would drop back to throw to one of his many receivers, but Leeds defensive back Jamal Jordan made a break on the ball and picked it off with 1:13 left in the game. This would spell the end for the Lincoln Bears and send the home crowd home with a 21-14 victory and a 2-1 record.
“I just want to thank my team. They give me a lot of confidence and have confidence in me to go out there and catch balls,” said Joshua Ruff of his performance. Coach Jerry Hood in reference to Joshua Ruff and Jarod Latta’s performance, “Josh dropped three passes too, so he’s got some punishment coming for that. But what an outstanding athlete.” Ruff finished the night with 11 receptions for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns (1 rushing). “Jarod (Latta) threw the ball well in the second half.” Latta finished was 15 of 22 for 225 yards passing and 2 touchdowns and did not throw any interceptions.
Asked about his defense, Coach Hood said, “They gave up 14 points tonight and that’s good against a team like Lincoln. They are an excellent, disciplined football team and they can throw the ball. So I was proud of us. Jamal Jordan with the interception at the end, this is his third football game ever. He’s never played football until this year. I’m so proud of Eddie Wall and his staff. They did an outstanding job 2 weeks in a row.”
Leeds travels to Moody next week to take on the Blue Devils, who have been off the past 2 weeks due to COVID-19 concerns. Lincoln welcomes in Center Point.