CLEARWATER — Emerging from Countryside’s post-game huddle Friday night, Terrence Jackson was walking with a noticable limp and a grimace on his face.
“I have a knot in my right calf and it hurts a lot,” the senior said. “It happened in the third quarter and my coaches tried to take me out of the game but I wouldn’t go. No, no, no.”
Not only did Jackson suppress the pain and keep going, he added a flashy 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter — his fourth TD of the night — to provide the host Cougars the winning margin in a 34-28 Homecoming victory over Palm Harbor University.
“I’m just trying to make big plays and put it on for the fans,” Jackson said. “I never want to go down on first contact.”
His blazing speed allowed him to avoid a lot of defenders. Jackson finished up with 256 offensive yards on just nine touches and was the key contributor on three game-changing plays.
“Not many people are going to catch Terrence from behind,” Countryside coach Eric Schmitz said.
After giving up a 15-play, seven-minute touchdown drive to PHU (3-2) to open the game, the Cougars (3-2) had a pair of fumbles and faced third and 10 from their own 15-yard line.
Enter Jackson, who took a John Angelo screen pass, stumbled but righted himself and shook off a hit before finding a gap, sprinting down the right sideline the 85-yard distance to re-tie the score just 29 seconds after the Hurricanes had taken the lead.
“I don’t even know how to explain it, I’ve had natural vision for a long time and I’m thankful for it,” Jackson said. “It can’t be taught, I just have it.”
And emerging from a 14-14 deadlock at halftime, the Cougars switched from a spread offense to a single wing and took control. Jackson took a direct snap at his own 21 and swept untouched around the right side to the house. Then three plays after William Johnson corralled a PHU fumble, Jackson rumbled off right tackle 4 yards into the end zone, his second TD in 1:03 to give the Cougars and insurmountable 28-14 advantage.
On his squad’s multiple offenses run by multiple quarterbacks, Schmitz said: “Everyone has a different skill set, and this gives everyone a chance to go out there and play. We have a lot of guys going both ways, so playing a true team game allows everyone to help us win.”
But in true PHU fashion, the visitors didn’t quit. Behind a Herculean effort from sophomore quarterback Will Seibert (26 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown, 6 for 11 passing for 126 yards and two more scores), the ‘Canes cut the gap to one possession on touchdown tosses to senior Mason Kryk (three grabs for 87 yards and two TDs).
Jackson, however, buried his injury for one more dash to glory early in the fourth quarter to lock down the victory.
“We did good (Friday) but there’s room for improvement,” Jackson said. “We’ll go in Monday, fix everything and come out a whole new team through hard work and dedication.”
“The kids need to keep doing what they’re doing,” Schmitz said. “Practicing extra hard every day, getting more disciplined each week and eliminating errors. It they keep doing that, we’ll be in a good situation.”