Boonville tops Jasper for second time this yearOctober 27, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
BOONVILLE — The Jasper Wildcats were looking for a different outcome when they traveled to Boonville to face their conference rival for the second time this year.
The first time the two teams faced each other on Aug. 31, they were outmuscled at the point of attack on defense and couldn’t get into a rhythm on offense. But after implementing a course correction midway through the season that saw them win five games in row, including a 34-12 win over the Evansville Harrison Warriors to start sectional, the Wildcats were looking to come into last night’s game and make up for the 28-14 loss they suffered earlier against the Pioneers.
But old troubles came back once again. Boonville used their ground game and feasted on the occasional big play, while Jasper struggled to get into a groove on offense when it mattered most, and the Wildcats fell to the Pioneers 17-6 in the sectional semifinal round.
Jasper coach Tony Ahrens felt that his boys went out on the field and played to the best of their abilities, but he also voiced his opinion that the team was facing more than just the 11 other guys out on the field during a given play.
“I told them after the game we as a staff couldn’t be any prouder of the way they played,” he said. “They played hard, they played consistent throughout the game. There’s just a lot of things that went on during this game that held us from being able to come out victorious.”
Those “things” included a lot of penalties, both called and missed, and a controversial turnover call which killed a promising drive in the first quarter.
“I’m going to look at the stats and look at the difference of what penalties we absorbed and what they absorbed,” said Ahrens. “There was a lot of holding going on their part, none of that was called. And (Lance) Dawkins down there where he was down and the ball bounced up, they called that a turnover. That just flips the momentum of the game. It’s hard for a coach to swallow that sort of thing when the kids are competing like that.”
Boonville started the game with the ball and Jasper was able to limit them to a three-and-out by stuffing two carries from senior running back Luke Conner, and then breaking up a pass attempt from junior quarterback Jackson Phillips and senior wide receiver Brandon Schnuck.
Jasper fed their sophomore workhorse Dawkins and senior wideout Reece Milligan with early touches to get things moving on the offensive end, and senior running back Caden Schmitt converted a 4th-and-short to keep the drive alive. They continued moving the ball into the red zone, and junior quarterback Nathan Rillo tried to take a shot for the end zone on a fade to senior tight end Phillip Noblitt. Noblitt was able to reel in the catch, but ran out of room in the end zone as the pass was called incomplete. From there the Wildcats attempted a field goal, but the snap was botched and senior holder Hagan Patton had to fall on the ball to prevent a bigger disaster.
Boonville was able to get things going offensively on their second drive. Phillips had a 28-yard run on their second play, and received the benefit of a face mask call on the next play to keep the Pioneers marching. Phillips and Conner failed to convert a 3rd-and-8 on their next set of downs, but junior kicker Jose Gonzalez-Tardon was able to bank a kick off of the left goal post to convert a 31-yard field goal attempt and put Boonville up 3-0 in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Milligan was hit late going out of bounds during his return which put Jasper’s offense on the Boonville 47-yard line. On their first play from scrimmage Dawson rumbled ahead for 17 yards before getting corralled by the Pioneers. As he went down, the ball came out as he appeared to be down by contact. The Wildcats expected the officials to whistle the play dead, but instead they ruled that Dawkins had fumbled the ball and Boonville recovered.
With another possession on their hands the Pioneers took to the ground again with Phillips, Conner, sophomore ball carrier Colin Wolfe and senior wideout Ross Farmer. Phillips also connected with senior receiver Rylan Hicks which gave Boonville a first down at Jasper’s 32-yard line. A few plays later Phillips appeared to connect with Conner for a 19-yard touchdown, but the score was erased by an ineligible receiver call. The Pioneers ended up settling for a 34-yd FG attempt, which failed.
Jasper once again tried to get things moving, but Rillo was intercepted by junior linebacker Elias Foor. From there it was three carries from Conner and a final 6-yd scramble from Phillips that put Boonville ahead 10-0 with a little over five minutes in the second quarter.
Jasper wouldn’t be able to strike back at Boonville until the third quarter. Senior fullback Zachary Flynn pushed through a few Pioneer defenders on a 12-yd carry during the team’s second play to open the half, and junior running back Elliott Hopf drew a facemask to put the Wildcats on the 20-yd line. A couple of plays later, Dawkins rumbled for nine yards and score, but the PAT would fall short leaving Jasper down 10-6.
Jasper and Boonville exchanged a few more possessions across the second half before the Pioneers finally sealed it with and 11-yd touchdown from Phillips to Schnuck with 10:08 left in the game to put the Pioneers up 17-6. The Wildcats did what they could to keep playing and fighting, but they couldn’t convert a 4th-and-11 to extend their last drive, and the Pioneers ground it out to end the game.
The team was equal parts sad and disappointed with how the game ended and wished some things could have went another way to give themselves the best chance to win the ball game. But Ahrens believes the team will be come back stronger next season. He thinks that the trials and tribulations the team went through earlier when they went 1-4, and bounced back to win five in a row.
“The challenges that our guys had to manage early and we were able to piece together a team, the team became very competitive,” he said. “(We) ended up being a good football team. Our program has a bright future. We have good kids playing and I think we’ll be alright.”
The guys on the team believe that some of the hard lessons they had to learn will transfer over and allow the Wildcats to come back better and stronger next fall.
“Next year they’re going to be a good team,” said Milligan. “They worked really hard. If they take anything from this season, they have to come out ready to play. (Coach) T (Ahrens) always says ‘enjoy the grind’ and I feel like they need to do that to be successful.”
“Don’t start off slow ever,” added Rillo. “When you start off slow you have to fight back into the game. That’s how we were in the beginning of the season. But once the second part of the season came around we really started to come out strong, and that’s what built our momentum towards the end.”
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