Cats' comeback bid falls short as miscues add up

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Vincennes Lincoln’s Chance Price, left, and Sam Thorne put pressure on Jasper’s Nathan Rillo in the first half of the Friday evening game at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium. The Wildcats fell behind 16-0 early and nearly completed a comeback attempt but fell just short 30-23 to the Alices — the Wildcats 1-4 start is their worst start to the season since a 0-4-1 start in 1955. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — The Jasper football team is entering uncharted territory but not in a good way.

With their 30-23 loss to rival Vincennes Lincoln on Friday night in Jasper, the Wildcats dropped to 1-4 to begin the season — their worst start since the 1955 season when the Wildcats finished with a 1-5-1 record and started the season 0-4-1.

“Clearly you can’t put yourselves down two scores right away because of mental errors and that’s what that was,” said Jasper head coach Tony Ahrens referencing the 16-0 start the Alices fled off to on Friday. “You can’t just give a team two scores just like that because then you’re just fighting and fighting to try and stay in the game.”

The start for the Wildcats (1-4, 0-2) was anything but pretty as Spencer Corrona found Colton McCrary on a 67-yard touchdown pass on just the second play from scrimmage of the game. A Corrona rush for a two-point conversion quickly made it 8-0 Vincennes Lincoln.

After neither team got anything going for the remainder of the first quarter, it was Vincennes Lincoln (3-2, 2-1) who was able to once again find a successful long pass play as Corrona fired a pas to Raekwon Haislip for a 35-yard touchdown pass on a 2nd-and-15. After the two-point conversion, Vincennes Lincoln led 16-0.

Jasper found some life on the next drive as a 22-yard pass from Nathan Rillo to Phillip Noblitt set up an 8-yard rushing touchdown from Lance Dawkins to pull the Cats within 9 points, 16-7.

“You just have to get momentum quick and if you get momentum quick it just helps you carry on,” said Rillo.

Before the end of the first half, the Cats had a few opportunities and they were able to move the ball into Vincennes territory but on the first drive Rillo’s pass was intercepted by Corrona and on Jasper’s last drive before halftime Rillo’s pass fell out of Noblitt’s hand and into the hands of E. Smith for the Alices second interception.

Immediately after the second half began, Vincennes Lincoln completed yet another long passing play for a touchdown as Evan Combs found Sam Thorne deep for a 60-yard touchdown to make it 22-7. But just like the first time, the Wildcats once again answered as a 26-yard run from Caden Schmitt earlier in the drive set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Rillo to Noblitt to make it 22-13.

However, mental mistakes once again cost the Cats as Dawkins fumbled with 5:16 left to play in the third quarter and on the ensuing drive Corrona ran it in for an 11-yard touchdown on a third-and-1 to make it 30-13 after a successful two-point conversion.

“We have a good core and we do a lot of things well but it’s just, we make mistakes at a lot of inopportune times,” Ahrens said. “We have to stop making those silly mistakes and if we do that we’ll be a lot better.”

The final quarter started off well for Jasper as the Cats marched methodically from their own 31-yard line to the Vincennes Lincoln 12-yard line before Jackson Kabrick punched home a 30-yard field goal to trim the lead to 30-16.

The next few possessions is where things really started to get interesting as Jasper’s Abhay Rathee recovered a fumble with about 10:03 to play and then on the following possession for Jasper, Reece Milligan showed off his speed and took off for a 61-yard rushing touchdown to pull the Cats within seven points.

Jasper had chances to tie the game late. They forced a Vincennes Lincoln punt with about 6:15 left to play and were able to move the ball as far down as the Vincennes 44-yard line as Rillo had a few nice pass plays to Noblitt and Joe Wood. However, the drive died out as penalties and incomplete passes stalled the Jasper offense and they had to punt the ball away.

Vincennes Lincoln’s Favian Hernandez tackles Jasper’s Reece Milligan as he rushes in the first half of the Friday evening game at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium. Milligan finished with 121 all-purpose yards and a 61-yard rushing touchdown in the loss to the Alices. For more photos from the game, click here.

Vincennes Lincoln got the ball back with 2:56 to play and once again the Wildcats were able to hold the Alices from moving and they had to punt the ball. But Ethan Lents was hit hard and the ball popped loose as the Alices recovered at the Wildcats 20-yard line and took a knee to run out the rest of the clock.

“We always come out strong in the second half but we can’t seem to do it in the first half,” Rillo said. “We have to always stay sharp and pay attention to detail.”

Linebacker Kyle Hedinger added: “We just need to come out ready to play and I think it’s more mental than anything. We just can’t blow assignments early, we have to be focused and ready to go.”

The Wildcats dominated on the ground (235 to 85) but were beaten solidly in the passing game (266 to 71). Milligan finished with 114 yards rushing to lead while Rillo was 10-of-20 with two interceptions and one touchdown for 71 yards. Carson Park was the leading defender with seven total tackles and three for loss along with two sacks.

Jasper will round out the regular season with four straight conference opponents and four more chances to get things back going.

Is it mostly mental? Ahrens isn’t totally sure but he’s hoping his kids use the remainder of the season to focus on positive things for the future.

“I think we have coaches that are trying to get information to our kids and try to put on a great gameplan but you can’t just run off and not do your responsibilities,” Ahrens said. “I mean, we have to try and pull together to improve our team — we have to use these games to see if we can’t become better at fixing those little mistakes.”

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