Wildcats knock off Tigers on road

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper coach Tony Lewis talks to his players after the first quarter Friday at Evansville’s Enlow Field. The Wildcats came away with a 27-19 win over Evansville Memorial to claim their season opener.


EVANSVILLE — It started off beautifully and didn’t always look so hot afterward, but when the smoke cleared, Jasper left Evansville with a win.

The Wildcats (1-0, 1-0) trailed, 13-7, then 19-13 after giving up a big kickoff return that brought Southern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Evansville Memorial into the red zone at Enlow Field. But Jasper never stopped fighting. Third-year coach Tony Lewis chalked it up to the conditioning his players do, and it showed during that second half. The Wildcats found a way with a 27-19 win over the Tigers.

“I felt like our conditioning took over late in the third quarter, early fourth quarter,” Lewis said. “We take pride in what we call fourth quarter conditioning. I think that was key for us.”

The Tigers held a 13-7 lead going into the second half, thanks in large part to three Jasper turnovers in the first half. The Wildcats fumbled the ball twice, and senior quarterback Will Weinzapfel was picked off before going into the locker room at halftime.

Jasper’s defense came through big in the clutch — forcing a turnover on downs three times in the second half, with the first one early in the third quarter getting it all started for the team’s comeback effort.

“That was huge because our special teams were horrendous,” Lewis said. “Our kick coverage was horrendous — we’ve got to do a better job of that, we’ve got to get things figured out. That last kickoff, we were trying to kick the ball out of bounds and didn’t get it out of bounds. And we didn’t cover the kickoff all night.

“Again, not turnovers this time, but we put our defense in bad situations with our special teams,” he continued. “They sucked it up. Again, going back to my previous statement — conditioning was huge.”

Weinzapfel completed a long pass to fellow senior Connor Foley on third down, and they kept driving until senior fullback Ashton Schuetter was in for his first of two game-tying touchdowns, 13-13, with 4:45 to go in the third.

Senior Xavier Tyler of the Tigers capitalized on Jasper’s kickoff coverage when his big return brought them to the 19-yard line, and the first play from scrimmage was junior quarterback Caleb Ellspermann finding fellow junior Leo Collins to put Memorial ahead out in front with 4:25 to go in the third quarter. However, the Wildcats blocked the extra point attempt.

Jasper kept on pushing by eating yardage on the ground, and Weinzapfel had a big keeper that brought him just shy of the end zone towards the end of the third quarter. Schuetter ate for his second score on the evening, and the PAT was good to give Jasper its first lead since the second quarter — and the lead for good — with 11:52 to go in the fourth.

The Wildcats stopped the Tigers twice on fourth down in the final quarter of play, with one of them leading to Jasper’s final score — a run from senior Isaac Day, and the other to the team’s victory formation.

Jasper is set to be back at it on the road Aug. 27 at Evansville Harrison, and when they meet Saturday, they'll deviate from their normal routine. The Wildcats will be in the swimming pool to get the lactic acid out.

“We’re going to do some swimming as opposed to some lifting,” Lewis said. “I felt like that’s a good way to get a workout and not go in and pound the weights. So, we’re going to do that tomorrow, and our kids deserve a little bit of a break from the weight room tomorrow. So, we’re going to let them swim a little bit and then we’ll watch film.”

“We’ve got a lot of things to get better on,” he added. “Memorial’s a great team, we may see them again in the sectional — there’s a chance we will. And I’m sure they’re going to be ready to play and they’re going to make adjustments.”

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