Cats set sights to sectional after routOctober 14, 2017
BY JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — The Jasper football seniors went out with a bang in their regular-season finale Friday as the Wildcats rolled over Mount Vernon 54-21 on senior night.
Jasper (7-2, 5-1 Big Eight Conference) came out hard and fast in scoring on its first seven possessions against the overmatched Wildcats (1-8, 0-6).
The first quarter alone saw Jasper score three times. Running back Ryan Ewing notched both touchdowns in his team’s first two drives on dashes of 29 and 3 yard runs, respectively.
Ewing, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season Friday, finished the game with 157 yards and three touchdowns and credited his offensive line with parting the defense so he could get loose on Mount Vernon.
“A large part of (our success) goes to our line,” the senior said. “Those guys are working their butts off every practice, and I think they deserve a lot of that credit. (Carter) Gentry, (Tyson) Schwenk, (Luke) Jarboe, (Will) Sternberg and (Jadon) Mehringer — they’ve been killing it all year.”
The host Wildcats’ third score came after recovering a fumble from Mount Vernon quarterback Rhett Snodgrass on the road team’s 17-yard line. Two plays later, Jasper playcaller Justin Persohn connected with Reece Milligan from 14 yards out to create a 21-7 advantage with 31 seconds left in the first quarter.
Persohn, who sat out the second half with Jasper ahead 48-7, went 9-of-12 for 103 yards and three touchdowns. The senior received consistent protection all night and said he believes his team’s offense is in a good rhythm as it looks toward a Class 4A sectional opener at Northview (7-2) next Friday.
“In the first half, we played real well offensively,” Persohn said. “We came out and we scored on every drive that we had, which is what we needed to do going into the sectional.”
Jasper never let its foot off the gas against Mount Vernon. At the start of the second quarter, Snodgrass was picked off by Jacob Lents, who returned the interception 72 yards for his squad’s fourth score.
Lents said the team was pumped up to play for senior night and wanted to give its fans a show in the group’s final home regular-season game. The senior added that he was happy the Cats were able to overcome a slow start on defense and deliver for the fans.
“I just came out here trying to have fun, trying to play good,” he said. “This is our last game at home. I thought we did pretty good at that.”
When it rained it poured for Mount Vernon, which found itself on the wrong end of two onside kicks that Jasper was able to recover. Both were capitalized on in the form of a quick-strike scoring drive.
Jasper coach Tony Ahrens said his team came into the game with a lot of confidence and used this game to work on specific packages the Cats hope to implement during the postseason.
“We put in some specific plays that we wanted to get accomplished early,” he said. “Our first one was a finesse play. But after that we wanted to line up and have our kids get physical at the line of scrimmage and move the ball. And they did a terrific job with it.”
Ahrens pulled most of his starters after the first half and gave some of the younger players time they may not have normally seen. The backups were led by a 3-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore Joe Wood in the fourth quarter.
But now that Jasper has moved past Mount Vernon, the boys are focused on their next task: the Northview Knights.
Ahrens gave Northview great praise ahead of the teams’ sectional matchup and said he thinks the Knights pose a tough challenge for the Wildcats. He has studied the Knights and said his team must play solid fundamental defense to keep Northview contained.
“The quarterback likes to roll out, and they have a receiver with good speed,” he said. “Their offense is going to go through their quarterback.”
But he said his team has the discipline and toughness that is needed for Jasper to impose its will.
“They have all the tools to be extremely successful,” Ahrens said. “Our kids work hard in practice, they’re in shape and they understand their assignments.”
But in addition to the team’s physical tools, Ahrens said there is a mental edge with which the boys must approach the sectional game in order to execute on both sides of the ball.
“There’s a mindset we all have to commit to,” he said. “Each guy is going to have to decide, ‘‘I’m going to do what I need to do to help our team win games and move on.’”
The players, for their part, seem to have adopted that mindset and are still looking to get better after their latest win.
Lents said he thinks there are defensive areas the team can improve at ahead of the postseason.
“I thought we started off a little slow on defense, letting them score that first time,” he said. “We always try to stop them and not let them score at all, especially not on the first drive.”
Ewing and Persohn said they’ll be watching a lot of film to get ready for next Friday, adding that they know the test that’s in front of them when they travel to Brazil, along with the realization the Wildcats must be clicking on all cylinders if the team is going to keep playing past next week.
“Everybody brings their best at sectional, so we can’t take anybody lightly,” Ewing said. “We have to work everyday in practice and try to get as far as we can. We want to win it all. That’s our goal.”
“(Northview has) a couple of good athletes on their team. We have to pick up on some of the tendencies that they have,” Persohn added. “They’re pretty solid all around. It’s going to be a dog fight. Any sectional game is not easy, so it’ll be a fun challenge.”
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