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The Hamburg High School football team fought hard against the 5A Jacksonville Titans on Thursday night, but fell short of victory, recording instead a five-point loss.

The Lions started out in the lead and led the game several times during the night. 

Armodd Taylor broke away for a 27-yard touchdown run that set the Lions up to score on the next play when Nick McNeil caught a seven-yard touchdown pass. The Lions didn’t get the extra point attempt, leaving the score at 6-0, but the Hamburg defense held the Titans on their next drive. 

When the Lions took back over, Brett Rice threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to McNeil to put the Lions further ahead, making the score 12-0. The extra point kick was good and the Lions led 13-0 halfway through the first quarter.

Toward the end of the first quarter, Jacksonville seemed to wake up and closed the gap into a one point ball game. The score was 15-14 rolling into the second quarter.

“I would say the momentum switched on the two back-to-back drives where Armodd Taylor had to come out with ankle issues. It forced us out of the special package we installed to take advantage of how often they blitzed and shot gaps defensively,” Coach Cecil Ray Cossey said.

After that, the teams seemed to answer each other touchdown for touchdown as the game went on to a high score of 44-39.

Taylor was able to get in a 48-yard touchdown run to make the score 21-14 before coming out with an injury.

Cossey said it felt good to see his team run the ball so well against Jacksonville’s defense. 

“We have struggled in the past with teams like Jacksonville that play mostly man coverage and stunt and blitz nearly every play, so  it felt good to be able to run the football so well against a team with that defensive scheme,” he said.

The Lions seemed to have to fight more toward the end of the game, and Cossey said he is disappointed that they had two chances to tie the score at the end and didn’t capitalize. He also said that he saw weak spots in his defense as well.

“If we are going to win against the best teams, our defense has to get better, especially our defensive line and outside linebackers. I feel like those two groups struggled mightily last week,” Cossey said.  “Jacksonville’s quarterback and running back are probably as good as any combo in 4A for sure, but we have to do better on the defensive line and outside linebacker. Our season depends on it.”

The Lions will now spend the week preparing to travel to West Helena to face Central High School Cougars.

“I know they have struggled a bit early this season, but they always play up for home games, and they still have four or five of the most talented players in the conference,” Cossey said.

A few Lions players who left the Jacksonville game with injuries aren’t expected to be back to travel to West Helena, but Cossey didn’t have a complete update on injuries at press time. Though some starters may be out for the Central game, Cossey said he didn’t expect anyone to be out longer than two weeks.

 “From the initial reports, it does not seem like any of the injuries from last week will keep anyone out more than a week or two at the most,” he said.

The Hamburg administration has been working to keep the last minute updates and schedule changes posted to the district Web page and to the school’s social media account. 

The Jacksonville game on Thursday was a last minute replacement for the canceled Star City game that was supposed to take place on Friday night.  

Cossey said he is moving day by day because so many things have been out of anyone’s control. Even though this season has been anything but normal, Cossey said the Lions will continue to focus on the only thing they can control, and that is the work they put in to get better.

“We are trying hard to focus on the week at hand and to be honest on the day at hand. We must focus on the things we can control, and that is our own film sessions, our own practice habits, and every single player getting better every single day,” Cossey said.

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