JHHS offense comes up a little short against Olpe in sectional round
At first glance, the score of Friday’s Class 2-1A sectional contest between the football teams from Jackson Heights and Olpe tells a one-sided tale.
For much of the game, however, the Cobras and Eagles were locked in a back and forth battle in Olpe and Heights was within striking distance of the defending state champions going into the fourth quarter.
“If you would’ve told me that going into the fourth quarter it would be a 13-6 game, I would definitely take that with our group of boys that we have,” Wick said. “They (Olpe) were just better than us there in the fourth quarter.”
While Jackson Heights continued to struggle converting long drives into points, the Eagles padded their lead with two more scores in that final quarter to secure a 26-6 victory and a spot in the sub-state round.
Starting out, the Cobras found themselves in a good position to begin the game, as JHHS took the opening kickoff and marched down the field and inside Olpe’s 10-yard line on its first drive.
Mason Hamilton jump-started the offense with an 18-yard run after Heights was facing a third and six early in the drive and quarterback Wyatt Olberding then converted on two crucial fourth down plays to keep the drive alive.
That promising drive ended abruptly, though, as Olpe’s Damon Schmidt intercepted a pass at the Eagles’ six-yard line to swing the momentum at a crucial point early in the game.
In Wick’s mind, there was no doubt the game’s outcome would have been much different had the Cobras put six points on the scoreboard following that first drive.
On the following drive, though, Olpe returned the favor as the Eagles proceeded to move the ball deep into Cobra territory before Brady Holliday picked off a pass in the shadow of his own end zone to get the ball back for Jackson Heights.
The physicality that Olpe coach Chris Schmidt noted he was worried about going into the game was on full display for Jackson Heights in the first half, as the Cobras continued to grind out drives. Execution was the difference in the end, though, as Olpe followed its game plan on both sides of the ball to hold off the Cobras.
On defense, the Eagles varied their pressure with five, six, seven, eight and even nine-man fronts, with linebacker blitzes added into that mix as well. While JHHS could methodically move the ball all night, Olpe always seemed to get the one stop it needed to keep the Cobras out of the end zone.
After one such stop on fourth down on Jackson Heights’ side of the field, Olpe proceeded to take advantage of the good field position and turned it into a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ryker Schmidt to Damon Schmidt. That score put Olpe ahead 7-0.
Jackson Heights’ next drive ended in the team’s lone punt of the night, but it also pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory and kept them from adding to their lead before halftime.
After the break, Wick noted his team was focused on sticking to its game plan and wearing down Olpe with its physicality. Conlan Bruggeman set the tone right away with a bruising hit on the opening kickoff of the second half, but the Eagles were sticking to their guns, too.
“We played great the first half. Our defense was key. I don’t think their running backs wanted to run between the tackles,” Wick said. “Credit to Olpe, they had a great game plan and their game plan worked. They got into space. They weren’t going to just run between the tackles.”
The Eagles moved the ball throughout the game on sweeps, screen passes and quick outs, while that also opened up some counter plays inside later in the game. Olpe presented a lot of new formations out if its spread package, Wick admitted, but the Cobras were still able to get a big stop and force a punt to start the third quarter.
What followed next may have been the turning point of the game, as Jackson Heights took over at its own 20-yard line and proceeded to fumble the ball away on the first play of the drive.
A comedy of errors ensued, as the Cobras and Eagles fumbled on three of the next four plays, but Olpe recovered its own fumble the final time in that wild stretch and Dylan Redeker then ran the ball in from 12 yards out to put the Eagles up 13-0.
“We kept reiterating to the kids that turnovers are going to be the name of the game and turnovers ultimately ended up killing us in that game,” Wick said.
Despite the bleak scenario that string of turnovers created, the Cobras did not back down. The team took possession after Olpe’s second score and went to work again.
Fullback Adam Brey had a big 12-yard run on a fourth and short play early in the drive, while Hamilton and Olberding also had some key runs. Olberding then found tight end Zane Richter in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass at the end of the third quarter to make it 13-6.
“That’s been the mantra of this whole team and I really think this team is the epitome of that “never give up” mentality because through the course of this year we’ve been in situations where we easily could’ve just quit,” Wick said. “It’s just the players buying in, the players saying, ‘hey, it’s not over yet.’”
The Cobras kept pushing after that, but the Eagles pushed a little harder, with Redeker scoring again on a one-yard touchdown run and Andrew Burenheide adding a 34-yard score late to put the game out of reach.
Jackson Heights was still driving on offense at the end of the game, still trying, but mistakes like penalties and some coaching decisions, Wick admitted, prevented the team from capitalizing when it had the chance.
The loss brought an end to the season, in which Jackson Heights finished 8-2 overall. Wick noted he was proud of what his players accomplished and the excitement they generated this fall.
“This senior class and really everybody has done so much for the program. I’m so proud of them, so proud of the community,” Wick said. “Everybody was excited. Everybody was part of the journey. Everybody was wanting to go.”
Nov. 13, 2015