The Fordyce Redbugs won their first state title since 1991 with a 28-6 victory over the Junction City Dragons Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. A dominating defense that forced five turnovers helped to play a major role in the Redbug victory.

The victory avenged a two-point loss to the Dragons during the regular season.

Quartey Shelton scampers for yardage against Junction City. (Jimmy Jones Photo)

“The first time we played them we did a real good job then, we just turned the ball over,” said Fordyce head coach Tim Rodgers. “Our defensive coordinator, Coach Musgrove and Coach Socia, and Coach Wilson – they had a great game plan. And when the kids did the things we worked on we made plays. We knew if we could get them stopped up front then we could take care of things in the secondary. They made a few passes, but most of the time we shut them down when we needed to.”

De’Arius Sledge intercepted a Brady Hutcheson pass on the third play of the game to give the Redbug defense their first takeaway of the game deep in Junction City territory, however Fordyce was not able to do anything with it. Both teams battled back and forth, and ended the first quarter scoreless.

The Redbugs finally struck first blood with 5:12 left until halftime on a four-yard run by Quartey Shelton. De’Arius Sledge ran in the two-point conversion to give Fordyce the 7-0 advantage.

Junction City appeared as if they would have a chance to tie the game up on their next drive, however, Sam Allen stripped the ball away from Jamal Johnson and returned it 88-yards for the score. The two-point try was no good, giving Fordyce a 14-0 lead with 2:38 remaining until halftime.

Both teams went scoreless in the third quarter, but Junction City was able to block a punt on the final play of the quarter, setting them up with first and goal from the six to open the final quarter of play. The Dragons punched it in three plays later when Jamal Johnson fumbled into the end zone. Kyle Kidwell fell on the ball in the end zone for the score. The Dragons attempted a two-point conversion that failed, giving the Redbugs the 14-6 advantage with 10:33 left to play in the game.

The Redbugs went three and out on their next possession as it appeared momentum had shifted into the Dragons favor, but Harlandus Frazier muffed the punt return and Fordyce’s Mantrel Neal feel on the ball to recover for the Redbugs. Fordyce scored seven plays later on a nine-yard run by Shelton with 5:58 remaining in the game. Jaheim Brown ran in the two-point conversion to put Fordyce up 22-6.

On the ensuing kickoff Fordyce kicked it to the 36, yet no one from Junction City took the ball, allowing Mantrel Neal to fall on the ball for the Redbugs. Fordyce scored their final points of the game on a one-yard run by Shelton with 3:36 remaining in the game. The two-point try failed, giving the Redbugs the 28-6 lead.

Hutcheson threw his final interception of the game with 40 seconds remaining in the game as his pass was picked off by Ja’Quez Cross. The Redbugs picked up one final first down before going into victory formation to end the game.

The Fordyce crowd was one of the largest crowds for a single team so far in the state title games this year. Rodgers said he was proud to see that.

“I love that. I’m going to challenge all of these people to make sure they come to home games next year. I want that,” said Rodgers. “I had a lot of people tell me ‘I didn’t come to a home game this year, but I’m going to be there Saturday’. I’m so glad and I’m so proud. It’s just uplifting for the town. There’s not a lot going on as far as industry and stuff, so to have this and have all of the people get together and to see people I haven’t seen in a while, that’s just great for Fordyce.”

Quartey Shelton finished the game with 16 carries for 39-yards and three touchdowns, in addition to two receptions for 19 yards.

Jaheim Brown went 13-of-22 passing for 135 yards.

Sam Allen had four tackles and a fumble recovery that went 88-yards for a touchdown. Allen was named MVP of the game.