XENIA — Jelani Tucker is turning into instant offense for the Xenia Buccaneers — as a defensive player.
The 5-foot-10 senior defensive back intercepted a pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown in Xenia’s 35-6 season-opening loss to Beavercreek at Doug Adams Stadium Aug. 24. The soft-spoken, but hard-hitting Tucker also had a pick-six for Xenia last year in a 54-40 week 10 win over Fairborn.
Tucker finished with a pair of picks and had a would-be interception knocked away at the last second by a Beavercreek receiver. He was also in on a plethora of tackles as well. For his effort, he was Xenia’s defensive player of the game.
“We had a good defensive game,” Tucker said. “We went to the ball hard. We kept going on the field, not giving up.”
That mentality helped Tucker on his touchdown interception.
“Coaches just told me to be disciplined,” Tucker said. “I saw the receiver running the slant. Our (defensive) tackle hit the QB. It was tipped. I was like, ‘I gotta go get it.’ ‘Just took it to the house.”
At the time, the touchdown cut the Beavercreek lead to 14-6 with 6:48 in the third quarter. But Xenia was unable to mount any offensive attack at all and Beavercreek took advantage of a tiring defense to score three times in the final 14 minutes.
“Jelani came to play today,” assistant coach Nick Jones said. “He is a hard-nosed kid. He’ll do anything for you.”
Tucker’s effort was really emblematic of what Xenia’s defense did all night — despite the lopsided score. In addition to the two interceptions by Tucker, there was also a recovered fumble, a couple other forced fumbles and a bevy of big tackles. While the Bucs allowed five touchdowns, one came in the final seconds and was set up by a long fumble return. In general, Xenia refused to get beat by the big play.
“We’ve got some really terrific kids on defense,” Jones said. “They’re going to do a lot of great things. (Beavercreek) just blocked really well. I’m excited to see what they can do the rest of the year. Just gotta make plays.”
That’s what Tucker did.