Jasper shows muscle in conference routOctober 5, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — The Jasper Wildcats didn’t have the prettiest start to their season, but as of late they seem to have patched things up and continue to move forward as the season draws to a close.
It looked like they could do no wrong on Senior Night as the Wildcats rolled up the Washington Hatchets to the tune of 63-0 in the team’s final home game of the season.
Jasper coach Tony Ahrens believed it was important for the Wildcats (4-4, 3-2) to start the game out on the right foot and not let the Hatchets (1-7, 0-6) linger around on the field. The team wanted to put this one away early instead of giving the crowd another heart-racing thriller like their comeback win over Mount Carmel last week.
“Tonight there was a lot going on, and it was important that our kids came out and started right,” he said. “A team like that could play a lot better if the score is kept close. Our kids came out and played hard early, jumped on them, and pretty much took the air out of them right away.”
Washington received the opening kickoff but didn’t hang onto the ball for all that long. On their third play from scrimmage. Sophomore quarterback Trey Reed threw a pass that was jumped and picked by senior cornerback Isaac Bartley, who returned the interception 13 yards for Jasper’s first touchdown of the night. The Hatchets coughed up another turnover on their next possession when sophomore running back Julius Hardiman coughed up a fumble on their second play.
Jasper struck quickly when they took to the field for their second drive. First, sophomore quarterback Nathan Rillo completed a 29-yard strike to senior wideout Reece Milligan to set up the offense in the red zone. Sophomore running back Lance Dawkins took it the rest of the way on a 7-yard carry for the Wildcats’ second touchdown.
Jasper forced a three-and-out for Washington and got the ball back on their own 46-yard line after the punt. Rillo appeared to connect again with Milligan for a 54-yard score, but the touchdown was called back after a clipping penalty was called against the Wildcats. Junior running back Elliot Hopf took the ball for a few carries to keep the drive alive, covering 24 yards in three rushes. Senior ball carriers Zachary Flynn and Nathan Schmitt had couple of touches before Dawkins finished off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Washington was able to get a first down to open their fourth drive after a 10-yard run from senior running back Jaydin Pendley, but couldn’t muster more than that. The Hatchets tried a trick play which resulted in a 13-yard loss, and Reed was sacked for another 11-yard loss on third down. They punted once again, which Milligan calling for the fair catch at Washington’s 32-yard line.
It was another short drive for Jasper to score. Hopf started it off with an 18-yard trot to get the Wildcats in scoring position. On the next play, Rillo connected once again with Milligan for 14 yards and this time the touchdown would stick. But Jasper had one more up their sleeve before the end of the first quarter.
Washington would get their second first down conversion after a 16-yard Pendley carry, but found themselves once again stalling out and punting. Hopf, Flynn, and junior runner Joe Wood got the first three carries on Jasper’s next drive, but once again it was Dawkins who sealed the deal. Back-to-back 13-yard totes was all it took for Dawkins to cover the distance from the line of scrimmage to the goal line and the Wildcats enjoyed a 35-0 lead after one quarter of play.
Jasper scored four more touchdowns before the clock struck zero: a three-yard carry from Dawkins, a 66-yard run from Milligan, a 46-yard run from Wood, and a 36-yard run from senior running back Nathan Schmitt.
The Wildcats finished with nine touchdowns and 413 yards of total offense. Dawkins finished with five carries for 29 yards and four touchdowns. Milligan had 66 yards and a touchdown on his single rushing attempt. Wood had 59 yards and a score on four carries, and Schmitt had 56 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
“We’re trying to pick up some momentum and we’re finally coming together as a team,” said Dawkins. “I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without the line and the fullback blocking for me”
“From the first snap we took control of the game,” added Milligan. “You always want to go out in what might be your last home game with a win. I’m sad it’s my senior year, but I’ve had some fun times.”
Junior kicker Jackson Kabrick matched the school record for the most extra points in a single game, joining Cam Verhey (1998) and Adam Geopfrich (2011) in the record books.
“That starts with the team first,” said Kabrick. “That starts with the defense stopping the ball and the offense putting it in the end zone. I just follow up with that and try to get more points on the board.”
Ahrens is proud of the way his players have responded in winning their last three games in a row. He feels that they are starting to put it all together at the right time, but they need to finish strong against Mount Vernon in their regular season finale next week. But once the postseason starts, he likes Jasper’s chance of coming out and making some noise.
“I think (our chance) is excellent,” he said. “As long as we understand that we have to focus on one game at a time, trying to accomplish one play at a time. Avoid turnovers and mistakes that might stop drives; just be a smart, efficient team.”
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