Cobra football locks up first district title since 2002 with victory over Valley Heights
Thursday night’s district battle between the Jackson Heights and Valley Heights football teams proved to be a war of attrition. In the end, despite a sloppy first half, the Cobras were able to wear down the Mustangs and pull away for a 24-6 victory.
With the Mustangs’ season on the line, the Cobras had their hands full early as their opponents were clearly ready to go after receiving the opening kickoff. Quarterback Logan Woodyard opened the contest with a 31-yard run and Valley Heights picked up two quick first downs while marching deep into Cobra territory.
“They came out hitting on all cylinders and we were hit in the mouth a little bit and probably a little bit startled at the beginning, but we were able to make a big stop and get the ball back,” JHHS coach Caleb Wick noted.
Defensive lineman Lance Coe delivered a sack on third down and the Mustangs’ following pass attempt on fourth down fell harmlessly to the ground to end the threat and allow the JHHS offense to take over.
When the Cobras’ got the ball, their offense looked just as smooth as Valley Heights. The difference was that the home team converted each third and fourth down that drive, chipping away at the Mustangs before quarterback Wyatt Olberding snuck into the end zone from one yard out at the start of the second quarter to put Jackson Heights up 8-0.
Olberding may have finished the drive, but the story early on was Brady Holliday. Wick noted he challenged the sophomore running back before the game to hit the hole hard and run through contact. He stayed “pretty slippery” throughout the night, leading the team with nearly 100 rushing yards in the game and two touchdowns.
Things went downhill pretty quickly after the Cobras’ first drive, though, and despite that strong showing from Holliday the team finished with its fewest offensive yards since a loss to Maur Hill in week two.
In particular, the final 11 minutes of the first half were ugly for both teams. While Valley Heights fumbled the ball on the first play of their next drive, Jackson Heights gave it right back. The teams then traded punts before the Mustangs coughed up the ball again with just under two minutes left before halftime.
Jackson Heights went to the air to try and add another score before the break, but the pass glanced off the outstretched hands of Zane Richter and fell into the Mustangs’ possession once again. The visitors ended the half with another fumble, though, and Jackson Heights was then able to run out the clock and hold onto its lead going into the second half.
Despite Valley Heights’ quick defense posing a challenge, Wick said most of the struggles were the Cobras’ own in that second quarter.
“It was one of those things where it wasn’t anything they were doing. It was all the stuff that we weren’t doing,” Wick said of the sloppy play. “We weren’t executing on offense there in the first half, from the blocking to the running. We just weren’t on the same page offensively.”
At the half, Wick noted the seniors stepped up and took ownership of the team in the midst of its struggles, letting their teammates know they all had to pick up the effort starting in the third quarter.
That message was received, loud and clear, as Jackson Heights got the ball first in the second half and marched right down the field in four minutes. Holliday then punched it in from one yard out to give JHHS a 16-0 lead.
Wick said he wanted to put some pressure on the Mustangs to start the second half and the Cobras certainly did that, putting together what the coach called one of the team’s best drives of the season as Jackson Heights pushed the tempo and picked up yards in big chunks to get that second score.
It also happened to be the mirror opposite of last year’s game. This time around, the Cobras took control at the start of the second half and didn’t look back.
Mustang quarterback Logan Woodyard wouldn’t let his team go away though. The tenacious athlete proved difficult to take down and made some big plays for Valley Heights on Thursday night to keep it in the game.
On the following Valley Heights drive, Woodyard had some key third and fourth down conversions that set-up a one-yard touchdown run by Keaton DeWalt to make it a 16-6 ball game.
Jackson Heights went right back to work on its next drive, though, and Holliday scored again from four yards out to make it 24-6 in favor of the home team.
While Valley Heights threatened once again, the defensive line put the pressure on when needed and hurried Woodyard into a quick throw on fourth down that came up a little short.
“Lance Coe, Caleb Sullivan, Wyatt Roles, Kaleb Keehn, all those kids stepped up on the interior line and I think they almost led everybody in tackles the whole game,” Wick said.
From there, the Cobras took over and ran out the clock to seal the victory and finish district play with a perfect record. The win also gave the team its first district title since 2002.
It might not have been a pretty win, but it’s to the point of the season where Wick said the team is focused on surviving and advancing. The Cobras may have to do the same against Jefferson County North in a regional playoff game, but Wick said it feels good to get back into the playoffs and be able to host that match-up like the team was striving to do.
“It’s fulfilling. It just shows that all this hard work we’ve put in the last four years has really paid off,” Wick said. “I’m so excited for this opportunity that lays ahead of us. I know the kids are excited, the community’s excited, and we need to get back to work.”
Jackson Heights (7-1) will now play host to JCN in the regional round of the Class 2A playoffs and that game will kickoff at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Oct. 29, 2015
Rushing: JH- Brey (8-37), Hamilton (8-45), Thomas (10-53), Olberding (5-22-1 TD), Holliday (16-99-1 TD).
Defense: JH- Roles (8 tackles), Olberding (14 tackles, two fumble recoveries), Parker (11 tackles), Coe (7 tackles), Holliday (8 tackles), Thomas (5 tackles), Wendorff (5 tackles), Richter (5 tackles), Hamilton (4 tackles, fumble recovery).