Trailing the Blue Jays 14-12 with 29 seconds left, the Blackcats had one more series to score, but a Jefferson jailbreak into the Herky backfield led to junior linebacker Dawson Jakoubek sacking quarterback Ethan Coy in the end zone to produce a safety that provided the final score.
The Blue Jays (1-2) held the Blackcats (1-2) to 19 yards rushing on 31 attempts.
“I’m very glad we got our defense together more than the other two games we played,” said Jefferson defensive end Steve Stephens, who had nine tackles and three sacks.
“We were in a prevent defense,” Jefferson head coach Alex Rouggly said. “I told our guys they’re going to throw the ball, so we’re going to rush six. We thought we could outman them up front, which we did. Connor Surratt drew the double team, which freed up Dawson to make the sack in the end zone.”
The first half was scoreless, but was not without big plays and drama.
Herculaneum’s first drive of the game ended when Stephens tackled Coy for an 8-yard loss on third-and-14. Jefferson marched down the field on its first series, but stalled at the Blackcat 16-yard line when Will Schnitzler caught a 10-yard pass from quarterback Colton Richardson on fourth-and-14.
The Blackcats faced third-and-15 on the ensuing possession when wide receiver Tyler Ruder hooked up with receiver Logan Melton for a 38-yard gain on a trick play. But Herculaneum was stopped cold when Jackson Combs sacked Coy, who was under pressure all night, for a 15-yard loss.
Senior Austin Huson (16 carries, 28 yards) was bottled up by the Blue Jays every time he carried the ball for the Blackcats. Huson also plays inside linebacker and punts, and on fourth down, he dropped the snap for a punt and covered it up at his own 28. Jefferson entered the second quarter driving inside the Herky 10, but a holding penalty on the Blue Jays negated a touchdown run and Richardson’s pass on fourth down fell incomplete.
“We told our kids all week that Herky goes through Huson,” Rouggly said. “We made a huge effort to try and stop him, but Coy and Luke Teague hooked up for some big pass plays. We weren’t in good position in the defensive backfield and that’s our youth showing. We’re growing every week. We told our kids to trust each other and they came out with a victory.”
Starting from their own 20 with 3:18 to play in the first half, Coy hit Teague, a senior, in stride on a perfectly executed slant pattern and Teague sprinted 53 yards. Huson’s longest gain (9 yards) of the night was next and Teague caught a 16-yard pass from Coy along the sideline as the Blackcats moved inside the 5. A penalty on the Blue Jays spotted the ball at the 1, but on fourth-and-goal on the half’s last play, Coy was tackled inches from the goal line. As the Herky sideline went bananas, the referees conferred for a moment before signaling Coy was just short.
“That was integrity. We stopped them,” Stephens said.
What did Herculaneum head coach Cody Hunter see?
“They (referees) said (Coy) was short,” he said.
After a scoreless first half, both teams punctured the other’s end zone on their first series of the third quarter.
Jefferson needed just four plays to cover 74 yards and senior running back Dylan Duncan scored the game’s first points on a 56-yard gallop with 10 minutes to play in the third. The extra point failed and the Blue Jays led 6-0.
Herculaneum also started from its own 26 on its first scoring drive, but took a little longer to get to the end zone. Key plays on the drive were a 15-yard personal foul against Jefferson and a 26-yard reception by Teague, who finished the game with four catches for 99 yards. Coy snuck in from a yard out with 4:08 left in the third to tie the game. The Blue Jays blocked the PAT.
“We saw that all summer in seven-on-sevens,” Hunter said of Coy and Teague’s dynamic connection. “We have playmakers who come up big and we’re heavy with seniors who want the ball. They don’t waver when they get it. This is a tough loss for our players, coaches and families and we hope to see Jefferson again.”
The Blackcats were situated to take the lead following Coy’s TD when Melton recovered the kickoff after it deflected off a Blue Jay at the Jefferson 31. After another sack by Stephens, Coy completed a 16-yard pass to Ruder, but on the next play senior Brandon Perry stepped in front of a Blackcat receiver for an interception.
Richardson scored on a 31-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter and Schnitzler converted the two points on a run to give the Blue Jays a 14-6 lead. Herculaneum answered with a quick 7-play drive that ended with Coy tossing a 56-yard scoring strike to Ruder with 9:06 to play.
“Colton is a big old boy who’s still learning the option,” Rouggly said. “He still wants to force the ball on some pitches, but tonight you saw glimpses of him getting better.”
Both teams turned the ball over on downs after Ruder’s TD. Herculaneum freshman linebacker Mike Moloney stopped Schnitzler for a 3-yard loss on third down. Moloney is undersized, but he was often lined up over the center.
“We put that defensive scheme in this week and I’m super proud of them,” Hunter said.
“We gave up a couple of chunk plays but they played their little hearts out. Defensively, I couldn’t be happier. This isn’t a game I’m frustrated by the way we played. There just wasn’t enough time on the clock at the end.”
Jefferson 16, Herculaneum 12
Herculaneum 0 0 6 6 – 12
Jefferson 0 0 6 10 – 16
J: Dylan Duncan 56-yard run (kick failed), 10:00
H: Ethan Coy 1 run (kick blocked), 4:08
J: Colton Richardson 31 run (Dylan Schnitzler run), 11:50
H: Tyler Ruder 56 pass from Coy (run failed), 9:06
J: Coy tackled by Dawson Jakoubek for safety, :24