It is never easy when a season suddenly comes to an end. But it is hard not to feel for the Jefferson R7 football team in the way its season ended on Friday night in the Class 2, District 1 quarterfinals.
The Blue Jays saw a 14-0 lead in the third quarter slip away in a crushing 17-14 loss in overtime to John Burroughs.
After a scoreless first quarter, Jefferson scored the only points of the first half when leading rusher Sean Usery found his way to the end zone on a 13-yard run. It was the 13th rushing touchdown of his tremendous Senior season. The extra point was no good, so we had a 6-0 score going into halftime.
The Blue Jays looked to have a stranglehold on the game after a five-yard Max Schnitzler TD run in the third quarter made it a two-score game. The successful two-point attempt made it 14-0.
But the offense could not find a way to put any more points on the board and the historically strong John Burroughs program went to work from there.
The Bombers got on the scoreboard for the first time later in the third quarter on a seven-yard touchdown pass. The extra point cut the Jefferson lead in half at 14-7 entering the fourth quarter.
Burroughs would find the equalizer in the final period on a 53-yard run to the end zone. The all-important extra point was good to tie the score at 14-14…sending us to overtime.
The Bombers would eventually win the game in the extra session on a 25-yard field goal. That kick sends them on at 5-5 to face top seeded New Madrid County Central in the District Semifinals on November 4th.
For the Blue Jays, it leaves them with an empty feeling and wondering “what if?” in a game they seemed to have a good grasp on in the second half.
Quarterback Kole Williams finished the game with a season-high 19 rush attempts for another season-high of 90 yards. The passing game had trouble getting on track as Williams completed just four of his 18 pass attempts for 41 yards. He finished the season with nine touchdown passes and 337 yards passing after taking over the starting job early in the season.
Another important factor in making this a defensive struggle was that Burroughs was able to limit Usery to 63 yards on the ground on 16 carries and a touchdown. Even though that production lifted the young man over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Usery finished with 1,055 yards on just 129 attempts for an impressive 8.2 yards per carry. He also scored at least one touchdown in eight of the ten games.
Sam Stokes continued his late season surge in the running attack with 54 yards on 11 carries. He finished second on the team with 388 yards.
Receiver Nate Breeze had one pass reception for seven yards. But the Junior proved this season that he is someone to keep an eye on for his Senior campaign after finishing with 13 catches, with eight of those for scores. With Williams also being a Junior, those two could make a dynamic duo for the Blue Jays in 2023.
Much of Jefferson’s success in 2022 can be attributed to the defense, which ended up allowing 16.8 ppg.
The defense closed the season with another effort to be proud of by forcing five turnovers against John Burroughs.
Breeze picked off two passes giving him five for the season. Usery, Schnitzler and Bennett Pemberton each recovered fumbles. Konnor Armstrong capped off a strong season, tied for the team-lead with eight total tackles and two sacks. He finished with five sacks on the season. Stokes, who also had eight total tackles, finished with a team-high 84 for the season. Usery added six more tackles to finish just behind Stokes with 72 stops.
It was a bit of a roller-coaster season for the Blue Jays under first-year head coach Matt Atley. After a 1-3 start, the team finished the regular season by winning four out of their final five games to finish above the .500 mark once again. The loss Friday night means a final record of 5-5.
There is a lot to be proud of for the players and coaches of the 2022 Jefferson Blue Jays. Let us hope the sting of this District Quarterfinal round loss will only hurt for a little bit, and they can look back fondly on what was accomplished.