His game is ill: Ewing paces Wildcats

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Jasper's Ryan Ewing rushed for 129 yards in the Wildcats 41-17 win over Northview in the Class 4A sectional quarterfinals. For more photos from the game, click here.


BRAZIL — Jasper running back Ryan Ewing doesn’t want to hear any Michael Jordan “Flu Game” comparisons.

After catching the illness’ symptoms from his younger brother Thursday night, Ewing made one thing clear — there wasn’t anything that was going to get between Ewing and a sectional semifinal berth.

“It was definitely bad timing,” Ewing said about his sickness. “But I knew one thing for certain: There was no way I was going to miss this game.”

The Wildcats, too, are glad that Ewing didn’t have to sit out the game.

He finished with 129 yards and three touchdowns as Jasper collected a 41-17 win over Northview in the teams’ Class 4A sectional opener. With the win, the Cats will have a home matchup next Friday at 7:30 p.m. against 4A No. 3 Evansville Central, which knocked off second-ranked Evansville Reitz in another quarterfinal.

The Wildcats (8-2) started slowly against the Knights (7-3), including a fumble on their very first offensive play of the game. Jasper still tallied the game’s first touchdown, as Ewing scored his first of the night from 9 yards out to put the Cats up 7-0. But the Knights answered quickly — and with attitude.

Backed up to his own 5-yard line on a third-and-26 play, Northview quarterback Trey Shaw found receiver Brylar Metz, who made a leaping grab and took it to the house for a 95-yard touchdown. Once Metz got close to the end zone, he slowed down and raised the ball over his head as if to tease the Wildcat defenders, which caused the Knights to receive a 15-yard excessive-celebration penalty on the following kickoff.

After Jasper fell behind 10-7 in the second quarter, Ewing punched into the end zone for his second touchdown and a 14-10 Cats lead, which held through halftime. But Jasper’s players didn’t forget about how the first half played out and quickly used it as motivation.

“We came (into the locker room) at halftime and even with the lead, we still weren’t very happy,” Ewing said. “We had some communication problems and people not doing the right assignment, which caused some mix-ups on defense. However, what’s good is that we’re really good at coming out in the second half, and once we found out what we needed to do, we executed.”

Jasper’s Eric Nordhoff took to the air to catch a touchdown pass while defended by Northview’s Thomas Gearld in Friday’s first half of a Class 4A sectional quarterfinal game in Brazil. Nordhoff’s 35-yard scoring reception helped Jasper to a 41-17 triumph, earning the Wildcats a semifinal date with 4A No. 3 Evansville Central next week in Jasper. For more photos from the game, click here.

A 3-yard scamper from Ewing and a 35-yard touchdown pass from Justin Persohn to Eric Nordhoff opened up the Cats’ lead to 28-10 midway through the third quarter.

Jasper coach Tony Ahrens said it was important for the Cats to come out in the second half with a strong demeanor and put what happened in the first half in the rearview mirror.

“I tell the kids prior to every game that we’re going to be faced with some type of adversity; doesn’t matter who you’re playing, it’s just part of the game,” Ahrens said. “You have to have the composure to continue competing, and the kids did that in the second half. They flat out played like they practiced during the week.”

The Knights got a little closer in the third period, as Trevor Cook intercepted a pass from Persohn and returned it 38 yards to pull Northview within 11. That would be the Wildcats’ final major mistake on the evening.

Jasper added two more rushing touchdowns — a 7-yard frolic into the end zone from Malik Chatman at the end of the third quarter, and a 46-yard sprint from Reece Milligan midway through the fourth quarter for the game’s final score.

“I feel like as the game got on, we started to figure out what they were doing,” said Chatman, who finished with 97 rushing yards along with an interception on defense. “We just started catching on to their play calls and started to get a little fire in our stomach. We’re just conditioned like that.”

Jasper outrushed Northview 300-164, which Ewing and Chatman both credited to a strong offensive line performance.

“What I like about what they’ve been doing is that they’ve really started to communicate better and they don’t just block at the line, they try to run up the field and find someone else to block, too,” Ewing said. “What’s happened a few times is that when someone is still up grinding for extra yards, they push the pile. They want those yards just as much as (the running backs) do, so we owe so much of our stats to them just because they’re such a huge asset to our team.”

“You have to support your line guys, especially when you see that hole. You just have to hit it,” Chatman added. “Once you hit it and get past the secondary, it’s just a really good feeling for us. But I know it really boosts down the confidence on the other team, because when that happens to us we just kind of sigh.”

There was also an uptick in the Wildcats’ defensive intensity in the second half.

Late in the third quarter, Raife Milligan was involved in back-to-back stops for the Cats — a sack on Shaw for an 8-yard loss, followed by Milligan swatting away a would-be completion to force a Northview punt.

Both of those plays lit a fire in Milligan, which is something that isn’t often seen in the junior away from the gridiron.

“If you ask anyone on the team, they’ll tell you I’m the quiet guy anywhere else but on the field is where I play emotionally. I’m a very emotion-based player,” Milligan said. “I’ve always been sure to play for other people. Specifically, I’ve known (seniors) Anthony Kluemper and Sam DeWitt for a long time, so I didn’t want them to feel sad that this could possibly be their last game.”

With the Bears (9-1) due up next for the Cats as they vie for their first sectional championship since 2013, Ahrens knows that if his team stays confident and puts in the effort during practice and preparation, then the Wildcats should feel confident in their chances come next Friday night.

“The thing is, coaches can know everything about an opponent, but the coaches can’t play,” Ahrens said. “Our kids need to watch our opponent and figure out what they need to do to attack. I think we have a group of kids that’ll do just that, and I’m very proud of all they’ve done. They’re a fun group to be around — we just need to keep playing hard so we can get us a sectional.”

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