Following the Wildcats’ 55-21 win over Jacksonville, school officials interviewed seniors over the public address system, and Saks celebrated its first 10-0 regular season in school history.
The Wildcats have finished the regular season undefeated twice, going 9-0 in 1968 and 8-0-1 in 1971, but never 10-0 since the high school opened in 1960.
“There’s no doubt we talked about it,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “You have to find things to motivate kids at this point, and we had the region title wrapped up and playoffs start next week, but you still have to play that Week 10 game.
“For us it mattered, and that was a good topic point this week. We played hard and got the job done.”
Even Jacksonville coach Clint Smith took the time to congratulate and shake the hand of every Saks player afterward. Smith coached the Wildcats from 2005-11.
“They’ve got a great team, there’s no doubt about it,” Smith said. “They’re going to go along way this year.”
Saks showed how good it was Friday, dominating from the opening drive through when subs came in for the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats quickly established their run game, while the defense held Jacksonville to two first downs in the first quarter.
Scoring on its first three drives to take a 19-0 lead, Tre Smith, Devontae Young , Devin Harris and Calvin Figueroa combined to run the ball 21 times for 139 yards on those first three drives.
Harris scored from 1 yard out, Figueroa scored from the 4-yard line and Smith hit Harris for a 6-yard touchdown.
“We wanted to establish the run early and set the tone,” Miller said. “We’ve got a good stable of running back and we wanted to use them tonight.”
Jacksonville was able to get on the board on its ensuing drive when Jackson Bell rushed 16 yards to get to the 12. He carried on the next play with a scoring run.
But that was also the last score for the Golden Eagles (7-3) until the fourth quarter.
Harris added another Saks touchdown before the half, giving the Wildcats a 27-7 lead.
Harris started the second half with a 1-yard scoring run and Rashard Williams scored on a 13-yard rush late in the third score to take a 41-7 lead after three quarters.
From there, the two teams played out the final minutes.
Tre Smith said he thought the defense played better than the offense.
Smith said Saks’ top goal was to slow down Jacksonville tailback Dominique Thomas. Thomas was held to 28 yards on 11 carries, but sat much of the second half, as Jacksonville has next week’s playoffs to think about.
Bell finished with 34 yards through the air and 26 rushing for Jacksonville, and Mak Curry recovered a fumble. Quen Veasley added a late touchdown on a 60-yard run.
Saks was led by Harris, who finished with 106 rushing yards and 42 receiving yards. Young rushed for 79 yards, Figueroa had 67 yards and Williams had 44 yards. Smith threw for 56 yards and rushed for 31. Jeremy McCants scored on a late 69-yard touchdown.
Saks and Jacksonville will both host first-round playoff games next week. Saks faces Good Hope in Class 3A, and Jacksonville takes on D.A.R.
“We came out a little flat last year in the first round for whatever reason,” Miller said. “But we’re a different team this year. There’s no doubt about that. We’ll be ready to go.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.