Healthy Cobra football team gets big win over Valley Falls
While a bad case of déjà vu might have started to sink in early for Jackson Heights in a district football game against Valley Falls on Friday, any bad memories brought up at the start of the game quickly became an afterthought on the way to a 34-14 victory.
“It was a total team effort on Friday. I thought that was the most complete game we’ve played all year,” JH coach Caleb Wick said.
It actually started just like the Cobras’ two most recent losses, with a promising early drive ended by Jackson Heights’ own doing. On Friday, that came by way of a fumble at the Valley Falls two-yard line on the Cobras’ first offensive possession.
Wick said it was a grim way to begin, but his players did not get hung up on it and showed resiliency immediately following that disappointing drive.
The defense stonewalled the Dragons on their first two possessions, including a three and out following the Cobras’ turnover that was followed by a short punt.
Jackson Heights took over with good field position, at the Valley Falls 34-yard line, and went back to work undeterred. The Cobras kept on moving the ball inside the 20-yard line and kept rolling into the second quarter when the team finally struck the first blow and took a 6-0 lead following a one-yard touchdown run by Adam Brey.
Brey, who finished with 123 rushing yards on the night, was one of several players returning from injury this week and he played his first full game of the season on Friday. Several players like Brey and Lane Slocum returned in the game, making major contributions, and it clearly made a big difference on Friday.
“We just scratched the surface,” Wick said. “That’s the first game that we’ve had where everybody‘s been able to play and play full strength.”
“That’s just something you have to go through during the season,” Wick said of the Cobras’ injury situation. “I think our younger kids grew from that and I think our older kids grew a lot hungrier to get back out there and prove to everybody that we are a better team than our record shows.”
Brey not only helped himself in his return, but he opened some things up for his teammates in the backfield as well as he played. Wick said his game experience made a big difference and his presence created some opportunities for his teammates, like on the Cobras’ next possession.
Following another defensive stop that was punctuated by a group tackle for loss on third down, Jackson Heights made short work of the Valley Falls defense as the Dragons zeroed in on Brey while Peter Rupnicki broke loose and went to the end zone untouched on a 40-yard touchdown run that made it 14-0 in favor of Jackson Heights.
Rupnicki also finished with 123 rushing yards on the night, doing so on just 11 carries (11.2 yards per carry) and scoring three touchdowns in the process.
“You can’t ask for anything better than that. He followed his blocks well and he was able to get to the open field and make some plays,” Wick said.
Valley Falls finally got on the scoreboard following that big play as quarterback Marty Gatzemeyer found Jarett Wilderman for a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-6 just before halftime. That left just 55 seconds for the Cobras to try to put something together and, once again, Rupnicki delivered.
After a solid return, the Cobras took advantage and Rupnicki got loose again and scampered down the field on a 49-yard touchdown run this time, giving Jackson Heights a 20-6 lead.
With players like Caleb Sullivan (MLB), Wyatt Olberding (OLB) and Brady Holliday (CB) making their first starts at different positions on Friday, Wick said the defense still put together a strong collective effort and did what it needed to in order to slow down the Dragons early.
“I think there in the first half we made them pretty one-dimensional where the only way they could really move the ball consistently is if they passed it or broke a big play with the quarterback run,” Wick said. “I felt very good about our defensive effort the first half. I thought it was awesome for the whole game.”
The trio of Olberding, Slocum and Sullivan, along with Zane Richter and Lance Coe (all with six tackles apiece), anchored the defensive front for the Cobras on Friday and created a lot of havoc in the Dragons’ backfield. Overall, Jackson Heights racked up seven tackles for loss, while also forcing a fumble and coming up with a couple of interceptions (both by Olberding).
While the teams traded possessions without any more scoring to start the second half, the Jackson Heights offensive machine quickly (which tallied 351 rushing yards on the night) got rolling again on their second drive as Brey broke a big run that set up Rupnicki for his third and final touchdown of the night and gave the Cobras a 26-6 lead.
On the next possession, the Dragons moved the ball through the air and Gatzemeyer eventually found Wilderman again on a 16-yard touchdown pass this time that made it a 26-14 ball game.
While Valley Falls did have success passing in the second half, Wick said that didn’t concern him too much with the aforementioned players adapting to new roles and some fluke mistakes hurting the Cobras on those scoring drives.
Regardless, Wick noted Gatzemeyer proved himself as a playmaker and was hard to contain in Friday’s game. The Valley Falls quarterback made things happen with his arms and his legs, stringing out option plays until the very last second to maximize yardage, but the Cobras eventually got the stops when they needed them most.
Following another big run by Brey that set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Korby Strube that made it 34-14 in favor of Jackson Heights, the Cobra defense forced their first turnover of the game as Olberding picked off a pass in the end zone to stop a scoring threat.
Even after that, Wick said the coaching staff wasn’t comfortable yet knowing what Gatzemeyer was capable off, so they were looking for a couple of first downs and a chance to run out the clock.
Late in the game was the only time when the JH offense was slowed down and Wick said that was probably due to the inexperience of playing with a lead. While the offensive line was lax late in that situation, he said the group was strong as a unit throughout the rest of the game, contributing to the Cobras’ success.
Despite that, Jackson Heights held strong on the other end and forced a turnover on downs and got another interception from Olberding to seal the victory and sum up a big part of why the Cobras were so successful on Friday.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time games. This was a big game for us and we had big time players make big time plays,” Wick said.
It was a big win to start district play as well and Wick said he couldn’t have asked for a better performance in the district opener. Now, the Cobras (2-4) will try to keep rolling as they get set to travel to Onaga for more district action this coming Friday at 7 p.m.
Oct. 10, 2014
Rushing: JH- Brey (16-123-1 TD), Rupnicki (11-123-3 TDs), Strube (14-64-1 TD), Richter (9-37), Thomas (2-4).
Passing: JH- Richter (1-2-18).
Receiving: JH- Dohl (1-18).
Defense: JH- Olberding (10 tackles, 2 INT), Sullivan (7 tackles, 1 TFL, forced fumble), Slocum (6 tackles, 2 TFL, sack), Coe (6 tackles), Richter (6 tackles, 1 TFL), Holliday (5 tackles, 1 TFL), Strube (4 tackles), Kennedy (1 tackle, 1 TFL, sack).