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Jackson brothers guide Highlands to win

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 12:24 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Highlands' Elijah Jackson takes a look for Hampton tacklers as he runs back the opening kickoff for a touchdown to give Highlands an early lead on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at Highlands High School.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Highlands Elijah Jackson, left, looks to break away from Hampton's Jack Werling on Friday night at Highlands High School, September 6, 2013

When Highlands needs a thriller, it turns to the Jackson brothers.

Juniors Elijah and Jeremy Jackson gave the Golden Rams (2-0, 2-0) momentum-shifting highlights during a 26-7 home win over Hampton on Friday in Greater Allegheny play. Elijah, older by one year and two months, set the tone with an early touchdown, and Jeremy found the end zone later to help Highlands break away from the Talbots.

“I follow every week,” said Jeremy Jackson, who caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Blake Leri with 2:20 left in the third quarter to put Highlands ahead, 16-7. “He gets one. Then I try to get one.”

Highlands' biggest play in a quiet first half came on the opening kickoff, as Elijah Jackson grabbed a bouncing ball at the 17-yard line and zipped down the left sideline for a touchdown 11 seconds into the game.

Hampton (0-2, 0-2) repeatedly encountered trouble in the first half. Twice it lost fumbles inside the Golden Rams' 15-yard line.

“It's been the same the last two weeks,” Hampton coach Jacque DeMatteo said. “We have to overcome some youth.”

The first instance was a strip-sack on fourth-and-goal at the Highlands 3 — the Golden Rams took quarterback Nick Grabowski to the ground for losses six times in the first half.

The second fumble stung worse: Running back Matt Rech lost the ball on first-and-10 at the Highlands 12.

Rech, however, redeemed himself on Hampton's next drive, as he ran 42 yards to open the Talbots' touchdown drive with less than two minutes left in the second quarter. The drive, which started at Hampton's 10, ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Grabowski to Eddie Edwards.

Highlands again turned to Elijah Jackson for an offensive spark, and the 5-foot-7, 140-pound running back obliged. After rushing for 33 yards on seven carries in the first half, he finished with 91 yards on 17 rushes.

“I don't know if you can bring him down with one person,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said. “He runs so hard every time.”

Grabowski and Edwards, a dangerous tandem for the Talbots, lost touch in the second half. Edwards, who had three catches for 78 yards in the first half, had just one reception in the final two quarters, a 22-yard pickup. Grabowski, who had 121 passing yards at halftime, finished with 143.

Fumbles gave way to interceptions for Hampton. Linebacker Allan Cratsenberg ended the Talbots' first drive of the third quarter with a pick, which he returned 40 yards to Hampton's 22. And safety Nolan Wise snagged a Grabowski pass with about a minute left in that quarter.

“We changed our game plan a little bit at halftime,” Albert said. “We stayed off. We take pride in bringing heat … and our defense in the first half played stout.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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