Jackson Heights at. Pittsburg-St. Mary's Colgan
With a first half plagued by turnovers and a second half riddled with penalty flags, the Jackson Heights High School Cobra varsity football team saw its hopes for a sectional victory against the St. Mary’s-Colgan High School Panthers at Pittsburg dashed recentlt.
Instead, the Cobras’ 34-7 loss to the Panthers brought their 2018 season to a frustrating close with a nonetheless impressive final record of 9-2. But for Cobra Head Coach Caleb Wick, the loss was frustrating due to a number of factors — the Cobras’ first-half mistakes, the officiating in the second half and Colgan’s “bad attitude.”
“To be quite honest with you, that was the most disrespectful team that we’ve played against all year,” Coach Wick said of Colgan. “When a kid walks up to an official on the sideline and starts yelling at the official, and the official just tells him to shut his mouth and go back to the huddle, you know it’s going to be a long night.”
It was also a frustrating close to the careers of several Cobra seniors, including Kolby Rethman, Conlan Bruggeman, Dylan Lacey, Curtis Niehues and Lane Thomas. Despite that, Wick said that the future “looks bright” for the rest of the team.
“We’re still relatively young up front. We’re bringing back everybody except Lane at tight end and Curtis at guard,” Wick said.
The Cobras’ misfortune began early in the game when, after marching the ball down to Colgan’s 15-yard line on the first possession of the game, Colgan recovered a Cobra fumble and took it down the field for a 32-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Cade Simmons to Derek Van Becelaere and a PAT kick put the Panthers up 7-0.
After the Cobras turned their next possession over on downs, Colgan marched downfield, striking again on the first play of the second quarter with Simmons taking a quarterback keeper 25 yards for six, followed by a PAT to make the score 14-0.
That was followed by another four-and-out for the Cobras, setting up another Panther score on another 32-yard TD pass from Simmons, this time to Cal Marquardt. An unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt put the score at 20-0 with 6:48 left in the half.
Wick’s frustration with the officials, particularly on that touchdown, stemmed from the Cobras pulling senior Kolby Rethman off the field after getting nicked on the play prior to Simmons’ touchdown pass, and the Cobras nearly went through the play with only 10 men on the field.
“I turn around and they’re running a play,” Wick said. “The officials came to me at halftime and said that was our fault, we should have blown it dead. And I’m thinking, ‘Well, are you going to give me six points for it?’ It’s ridiculous.”
Both teams traded four-and-outs until the last two minutes of the half, when it looked like the Cobras might score, making their way into the Panthers’ red zone. But with seconds left to go in the half, the Panthers recovered yet another Cobra fumble before running out the clock.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it — we just didn’t play very good in that first half, and those two fumbles really hurt us,” Wick said.
But on the first play of the second half, it was the Panthers’ turn to fumble, as they returned the kickoff to about midfield before dropping the ball. The Cobras recovered the ball and, six plays later, Rethman scored on a four-yard TD run, followed by Dylan Lacey’s PAT kick, bringing the score to 20-7 less than four minutes into the third frame.
The Panthers responded with another score, this time on a two-yard Simmons run and a PAT kick, bringing the total to 27-7 with 5:51 left in the third. But on the PAT kick, the Cobras were flagged for roughing the kicker, putting them deeper in their own territory on the return.
It was after that return that the penalty flags began to fly with a lot more frequency after a generally clean first half, although many of the unsportsmanlike conduct calls made against the Cobras were offset by similar Panther fouls.
“I consider my kids to be pretty even-keeled, and we’ve never had troubles with unsportsmanlike penalties,” Wick said. “I’ve seen the film and a couple of those personal fouls that we got were them flopping. Our guy barely touched them, and they embellished it and took a dive, but we’ll learn from it.”
The Cobras’ next possession was hampered by many of those flags, and after a holding penalty that left them with long yardage to get to another first down, quarterback Cable Wareham couldn’t connect with Lane Thomas on a third-down-and-17 pass, and a go-for-it on fourth and 17 ended with Rethman getting tackled for a 10-yard loss as the third quarter ended.
That left the Panthers in good field position to make their last score of the night, a short touchdown run with a PAT that brought the score to 34-7 less than two minutes into the final frame. The Cobras ended up with another four-and-out, and all that was left was for Colgan to chew up the rest of the clock.
Wick said he hopes that his Cobra team learns several lessons from the final game of the year, noting that the final score of the game doesn’t take anything away from the Cobras’ 9-2 season.
“I’m hoping the kids learn from this and just remember that when you go somewhere and you don’t get the calls, you’re not only going to have to beat the opposing team but you’re also going to have to beat the officiating, and that comes with adversity,” Wick said. “But my kids did an exceptional job. They really bit their tongue, and it really could have been a lot worse than it was in that aspect.”
Colgan’s win at the sectional level put them into a sub-state playoff at Olpe — the only other team the Cobras couldn’t beat this season. Undefeated Olpe beat Colgan to advance to the state title game.