Jasper wins cat fight, final Big 8 championship

Jasper's Blake Mann runs the ball during Friday's football game at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper. The fleet-footed junior quarterback led all rushers with 93 yards, as Jasper defeated Mount Vernon 29-14. Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald


JASPER — There was supposed to be a cat fight Friday night at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium. Jasper’s Wildcats showed up, but Mount Vernon sent its mildcats for the regular-season finale that decided the final Big 8 Conference championship.

Almost everything Jasper did — save a few turnovers that only served to keep the game closer than it should have been — came up right, while Mount Vernon had almost everything in its gameplan blow up in its face.

So instead of a running clock in the second half to mercifully end Mount Vernon’s misery, Jasper relied on its big lead through three quarters for a 29-14 victory that kept the homestanding Wildcats perfect in five conference games and earned them a Big 8 title. (Jasper and Vincennes Lincoln move to the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference next year, and the Big 8 Conference will dissolve.)

“It’s a great finishing touch for our program,” Jasper coach Tony Lewis said of winning the conference championship. “Jasper’s had a stranglehold on a lot of the Big 8 for a number of years, and for our senior group to go out with a Big 8 championship in their final year was one of our goals.

“The other goal we had was that we wanted to be playing our best football at the end of the year come playoff time, and that’s now. We don’t make a lot of goals, but those are goals we really wanted to do for our senior group. It was a great win for our program.”

Jasper got things rolling right off the bat. After Mount Vernon’s onside kick failed to catch Jasper off guard to open the game, Jasper marched 49 yards on eight plays, all but one of them on the ground, for a touchdown with 7:20 showing when Elliott Hopf took a pitch from Blake Mann and scooted 10 yards to paydirt. But two untimely false start penalties backed up Jasper to the 20-yard line for Jackson Kabrick’s PAT kick, which missed its mark for a 6-0 lead.

After Mount Vernon went three and out on its first possession, Jasper put together another eight-play drive to cover 46 yards, the final 17 by Mann for a 12-0 edge with 2:09 remaining. Hopf took a sweep pitch from Mann on the two-point conversion, and covered the distance to the end zone, but went down in a heap with a pulled hamstring. He sat out the remainder of the game, and is questionable for the first game of the playoffs.

Mount Vernon looked as if it might threaten as the quarter wound down — the visitors took their first snap in Jasper territory with 31.6 seconds left — then Mount Vernon quarterback Rhett Snodgrass threw the first of five interceptions on the first play of the second stanza, a pick Mitch Kaiser turned into a 65-yard cross-country run for a touchdown with 11:42 showing. It was the first of three interceptions for the Jasper senior on the night.

“I thought defensively we played extremely well,” Lewis said. “Obviously Mitch Kaiser had an unbelievable game with three picks. I thought Kadon Hurm and Ross Peter played really well at strong safety, and Kadon had a big interception and blocked a punt that was big for us.

“I can’t say enough about our defense. I thought we played really, really well defensively. There at the end we gave up a couple of scores, but I think offensively, if we keep the drives going, maybe that doesn’t happen,” the coach said.

Mount Vernon again looked menacing when the Wildcats went on a 14-play drive that ended with a missed 36-yard field goal with 5:33 to go before halftime.

Jasper then devoured most of the remaining first half with a methodical drive to the Mount Vernon 5-yard line, a drive that included one of three fumbles on the night, and ended with Mann’s would-be touchdown pass being picked off in the end zone.

Jasper's Lance Dawkins gets tackled during Friday's football game at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper. Dawkins was called upon for the majority of Jasper's running load after Elliott Hopf went down with a pulled hamstring in Jasper's 29-14 defeat of Mount Vernon. Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald

After Mount Vernon came up empty to start the second half when Hurm blocked the ensuing punt, it took Jasper just two plays to go 15 yards. Isaac Day found paydirt from 10 yards out with 10:06 showing, then Jasper opted for another two-point try, which Lance Dawkins converted for a 29-0 lead.

Mount Vernon’s next two possessions ended in interceptions, one by Kaiser and the other by Ethan Lents. But after Jasper fumbled the ball away on its first snap with 2:35 left in the third period, Mount Vernon went 45 yards in four plays for its first score with 1:31 to go.

Jasper then fumbled away its first possession of the fourth frame, which Mount Vernon turned into a three-play scoring drive, highlighted by a 34-yard flea-flicker pass by Snodgrass to put his team just four yards from the end zone.

Mount Vernon’s final two possessions of the game ended with Jasper’s fourth and fifth interceptions by Kaiser and Hurm (on a deflection from Kaiser that was almost his fourth of the night).

Jasper hosts Northview at 8 p.m. Friday for the first game of sectional play. The two teams played a common opponent this season in Evansville Memorial. Jasper lost 35-20, and Northview lost 24-0.

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