Highlands downs Hollidaysburg, 33-14
On an emotional night following the summertime death of teammate Ryan Richards, the Highlands Golden Rams looked to make an opening-night statement to the rest of the Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference.
Junior tailback Elijah Jackson ran for 180 yards, snagged an 83-yard touchdown pass and returned a pass interception 53 yards, and the Golden Rams defense held Hollidaysburg to minus-13 rushing yards in a 33-14 victory over the Golden Tigers.
Richards, who would have been a senior wide receiver and linebacker, died in a traffic accident July 13 in West Deer. School officials had a moment of silence for Richards and school custodian Bob Rose, who died from a job-related accident this week.
After a scoreless first quarter where Hollidaysburg stopped Highlands on downs twice deep in Golden Tigers territory, quarterback Blake Leri hit Jackson with a pass near the Golden Rams bench. Jackson broke away from a defender at the Golden Tigers 40 and raced the rest of the way for the Golden Rams touchdown.
“We all came out here with a good mindset,” Jackson said. “We're 1-0, and we want to go 1-0 next week. You have to be ready every week.”
After Highlands defensive end Julian Flenory batted the ball out of Golden Tigers quarterback Caleb Parnell's hands, Jordan Lineburg dove on the loose ball, and the Golden Rams had possession at the Hollidaysburg 26-yard line. After Jackson produced a 17-yard run, his brother, Jeremy, took a pitch left and managed to get a foot into the end zone for a second Highlands touchdown.
Elijah Jackson ran for 142 of his 180 yards in the second half to set up two more Highlands touchdowns.
“Any time he touches the ball, Elijah's a threat to go,” Golden Rams coach Sam Albert said. “Special teams, anywhere. We call him our Reggie Bush.”
But on the ground, Highlands used six sacks to throttle the Golden Tigers rushing game.
George Guido is a freelance writer.