A late season surge for the Jefferson R-7 football team continued Friday night in the regular season finale with a resounding 46-28 victory over St. Vincent, a Class 1 State-ranked team whose only prior loss was against Valle Catholic.
The Blue Jays will enter district play next week as winners of four out of their last five, with the only loss coming last week to Class 3 Ste. Genevieve by a score of 41-34.
Another sign of the team’s growth under first-year head coach Matt Atley is this was Jefferson’s first win this season over a team with a winning record.
In improving to 5-4, the victory also guaranteed the Blue Jays will finish the regular season with a winning record for the eight straight season and it denied St. Vincent the outright I-55 Conference championship. The Indians shared the title with St. Pius but won the head-to-head match-up with the Lancers. Both finished 5-1. By the way, Jefferson finished third at one game back.
The first half of this game belonged to Jefferson.
Quarterback Kole Williams used his legs to score on a 23-yard run in the first quarter to put his team up 7-0.
In the second quarter, Sean Usery scored his team-high 13th rushing touchdown of the season on a 21-yard trip to the end zone. The score remained 13-0 after a failed PAT.
St. Vincent got back in the game on a one-yard run from quarterback Christian Schaaf to cut the lead to 13-7 after the PAT.
Jefferson quickly reestablished control when Williams tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Nate Breeze. This was the first of two scoring connections between this duo on the night. The extra point again was no good keeping the score at 19-7.
The Blue Jays added to the lead before halftime when Sam Stokes took it to the house on a 16-yard run. This young man is getting quite familiar with the end zone, this was his fourth consecutive game with a touchdown. A failed two-point conversion made the score 25-7 at halftime.
With the threat of getting blown out, the Indians answered first in the third quarter on a ten-yard run from Drake Robinson to cut the Blue Jays lead to 25-14 after the kick.
But back came Atley’s crew when Williams found Breeze for their second hookup of the game. This one came from six yard out. It was Breeze’s team leading eighth touchdown reception. The two-point attempt failed to keep the score 31-14.
Williams then found Stokes for third scoring pass of the game; a new season high. The 41-yard strike made the score 39-14 after the successful two-point try.
In the fourth quarter, Jefferson scored a season-high seventh touchdown in a single game when Karson Haefner got in on the fun with a 15-yard touchdown run. His third of the campaign.
St. Vincent scored a pair of second half touchdowns on passes from Schaaf to Kaden Kassel and Cruz Reitzel to make the final score 46-28.
Jefferson ran the ball and then ran the ball some more against the Indians. The Blue Jays rolled up 315 yards on the ground on 49 attempts. Usery led the way with 97 yards while Stokes added a season-high 84 yards. But it was a team effort as Williams chipped in with 57 yards and Haefner had 45 of his own and all four found the end zone.
Talking about making the most of your opportunities, Williams completed three of his five pass attempts, but all three went for touchdowns totaling 78 yards. The Blue Jays finished with 393 total yards.
Defensively, Usery led the team with ten tackles and a pass break-up. In addition to scoring a rushing touchdown and catching a touchdown pass, Stokes added six tackles. Konnor Armstrong finished with five tackles and two sacks. Like Usery and Stokes, Breeze had a big game on both sides of the ball. In addition to his two touchdown receptions, he had four tackles, an interception and a pass break-up. Max Schnitzler also had a fumble recovery.
“Schnitzler, Gavin Theodoro and Bennett Pemberton played exceptionally well in our secondary,” said Coach Atley after the game. “Those guys did exactly what they were coached to do all week and made some huge plays that won’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Games are won up front and that’s where the Blue Jays shined against the Indians.
“Our offensive and defensive lines are improving each and every week and they are starting to play at a very high level,” Atley said. “On both sides of the ball they played a key role in our victory.”
The Class 2, District 1 standings indicate Jefferson will square off with John Burroughs in the opening round of district play on Friday, October 28th.