CLARKSTON - To say Friday's meeting between Newton and Stephenson at Hallford Stadium was in reality a football game would be an overstatement.
Despite both teams combining for 28 penalties for 255 yards, several scuffles on and off the field and a handful of interesting calls by the officiating crew, Stephenson (4-0 overall, 1-0 Region 2-AAAAA) prevailed 25-7.
Perhaps the most bizarre penalty came during Stephenson's opening possession. After holding the Rams (1-3, 0-1) to a three-and-out, the Jaguars quickly found themselves on the Newton 44-yard line with fourth-and-11 to go.
A punt by Stephenson would have given the ball back to Newton at its own 4, but instead was called back, stopping the game for approximately 12 minutes to determine the infraction.
And once the call was adjusted, Newton was slapped with consecutive penalties, giving the ball back to Stephenson.
"(The officials) said we had 12 people on the field," Newton coach Nick Collins. "The problem was they came over to the side and they tried to count people while we were in the process of changing offense and defense. (The official) was counting people who were coming on the field for offense, and then they misspotted the ball - the mark should have been at the 45, but it was put at the 40."
Despite an interception for a touchback by Newton's Jaquan Dorsey, he fumbled seven plays later. Stephenson's Antonio Thornton recovered deep in Newton's territory, which then led to a 9-yard touchdown run by Raymond Sanders.
After the PAT, Stephenson led 7-0 with 1:30 left in the first quarter.
The score remained the same until a Stephenson 29-yard field goal at the 10:24 mark in the second quarter.
Only 1:15 later, after a fumble by Newton quarterback Demetrius McCray in the end zone, Stephenson added two more points on a safety.
Several possessions and penalties later, the Jaguars added another touchdown, this time an electric 83-yard punt return by Jonathan Blackley for an 18-0 lead with 3:59 left before halftime.
A disastrous third quarter for both squads - one that included 10 penalties, plenty of pushing and shoving on the field and a livid Collins - kept the scoreboard the same entering the fourth.
The yellow hankies came flying again during Stephenson's opening possession in the final quarter. After three consecutive calls against Newton, followed by two Stephenson fouls, Collins dragged his team off the field until emotions settled down.
But Blackley revved things up again after a 33-yard punt return for a touchdown. After the PAT, the Jaguars led 25-0 with 3:25 left in the game.
Newton scored its only points of the night after an impressive 53-yard reverse touchdown dash by Akeem Hunt along the left sideline.
"We came back in the second half, and we showed some fight," Collins said. "That's the thing I talked about (at halftime). We're a young football team; we can't give up. We've got to be able to come back and keep fighting until the very end."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.