Wildcats top Reitz in home openerSeptember 3, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER - It wasn't always pretty for Jasper Friday in its home opener against Evansville Reitz, but some clutch drives in the fourth quarter allowed for sighs of relief in the 42-21 victory at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium.
The Wildcats (3-0, 3-0) found themselves leading the Panthers, 20-14, in the fourth quarter. Just one possession could've put Jasper in a deficit for the first time all evening, but carrying the ball at opportune times proved to be critical as the Wildcats searched to remain undefeated. Their methodical ball carrying allowed them to chew a lot of time off that fourth quarter clock.
"I felt like our offensive line started to get in a rhythm late," Wildcats coach Tony Lewis said. "I thought all our backs ran hard - (senior) Isaac (Day), (senior Ashton) Schuetter, (senior) Cooper Ewing had some big runs and (senior) Ian Giesler had some big runs on our counter."
They went for it on fourth down with a yard to go, and fed senior Schuetter to keep the drive alive. Jasper kept on pounding the ball to move the chains until senior Day took a run for his third straight game with a touchdown. The Wildcats went for two, and senior Will Weinzapfel found fellow senior Connor Foley for two, making it a 28-14 Jasper lead with 5:02 to play.
However, Jasper's defense also bent multiple times throughout the evening. This included after the touchdown and two-point conversion when Reitz scored and made it a one-possession game once again for the second time in less than a minute. The Wildcats also had an opening drive touchdown, only for Reitz to respond during its first drive in the opening quarter of play.
"Defensively, we got to work on our speed up offensive coverage there," Lewis said. "They picked us apart. Coach (Cory) Brunson does a great job at two-minute drill, and that's a really good team. That team's going to continue to get better, and as we told our kids, there's a good chance we'll see that team again down the road. They're young, they're getting better and our kids made some plays down the stretch."
Yet, the Wildcats found a way to respond for each time the Panthers pushed, and the Reitz touchdown that trimmed Jasper's lead to 28-21 in the fourth was no different. The Panthers went for an onside kick that the Wildcats recovered. Jasper continued pushing with its ground game until Weinzapfel took the ball to the house on a keeper, and Jasper again held a two-score lead, 35-21, with 1:57 left to go.
A big star for Jasper was junior Bralen Bair, who had two interceptions, and returned both of them for touchdowns. The latter score was a 40-yard return that put the bow on this one. Senior Sam Leonard's extra point brought the game to its final score.
"Bralen's athletic," Lewis said. "Those were both instinctive plays."
Jasper will put its undefeated record to the test again Sept. 10 at Evansville Bosse. The Bulldogs took a 49-0 loss to Castle after starting the season 2-0.
"(Coach Stephan) Mullen's doing a great job with Bosse," Lewis said. "He's instilled some discipline, his kids are believing. He's a former Reitz player of mine and I can't say enough good things about him - played on our state championship team (in 2009) and just doing a great job of instilling a lot of confidence in their program. It's going to be a tough place to play."
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