The Jackson Indians needed a huge fourth quarter to make some history on Friday night, but as they are wont to do, they came through when it mattered. In their toughest test of the season, they found a way to break out in the final 12 minutes against the O’Fallon Panthers to secure a 31-10 victory, and their incredible fourth straight undefeated regular season.
However, the game certainly didn’t start out as a sure thing. Jackson was held scoreless in the first quarter, while O’Fallon found the end zone with a one-yard touchdown run. Both offenses would then remain quiet for a considerable stretch, until the Indians finally broke free and put a crooked number on the score board. Quarterback Cameron Marchi found his go-to safety net in Kannen Turley for a big 36-yard grab-and-go and Jackson was finally on the board.
The Indians drove down the field one more time in the first half, but a red zone interception took the wind out of their sails. They would have to settle for a 7-7 tie after the first 24 minutes.
The second half mirrored the first, at least in the third quarter, as both defenses held fast while both offenses struggled to put together any meaningful drives. Then, the fourth quarter happened.
The Panthers woke the sleeping giant and suddenly the Indians erupted for three touchdowns. First it was Marchi finding Isaiah Davis for 23 yards, making the score 14-7 Jackson. Then, ace kicker Logan Bruns nailed a 28- yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-7, making it a two-score game. O’Fallon would muster a field goal of their own, but that put the cap on their scoring for the day.
Ninety seconds later, Marchi got right back to work, finding Turley again for a 40-yard strike that cut deep into the the Panthers’ hopes. The Indians had cobbled together a coffin and only needed a nail to seal the deal. That nail came in the form of defensive stalwart Flint Guilliams, who picked off a Panther pass and ran it all the way back for a pick-six and a 31-10 Indian victory. The win gave Jackson their unthinkable fourth consecutive undefeated regular season.
The defending State Champs really turned it on late in this one and looked to their Senior signal caller to carry the weight. Marchi went off for 264 yards and three TDs on 20-of-28 passing. His favorite target in this one was his good buddy, and old reliable receiver, Turley, who snagged seven passes for 132 yards and two scores. Davis had six grabs for 86 yards and a score as well. Tony Williams paced the ground game with 14 carries for 69 yards, but never found the end zone.
On defense and special teams, Guilliams was a monster, totaling 118 return yards and pilfering the game’s lone interception, which he returned for a touchdown. Jacob Farrow was huge as well with 10 tackles and three sacks, two of them on third down that resulted in Panther punts. Griffin Horman added ten tackles of his own with six assists and two going for a loss. The defense was certainly on point in this one.
But the big story was Bruns, who reached 200 career kicking points, a milestone shared by only six players in Missouri State High School Football history. He was perfect on all his point after tries and nailed that crucial 28-yard FG to etch his name into the record books.
Jackson is rolling and looking like a safe bet to repeat as Class 5 District 1 State Champions. The Indians will get a breather next week as they earned a first round bye in the playoffs, but you can be assured that the team will be working as hard as ever to fine-tune their craft in an attempt to make a long and successful playoff run.