Jackson football bulldozed by Clair, SLUH in second half of 53-28 loss
The Jackson football team never lacked intensity in the second half of Friday's game against Class 6 Saint Louis University High, but what it did lack was execution.
The Indians had no answer for Junior Billikens senior running back Andrew Clair, who gouged out 271 yards on 42 carries and had four second-half touchdowns, as SLUH scored 39 unanswered points and cruised to a 53-28 victory in the regular-season finale at The Pit.
"It's always disappointing when you don't win, but I'm so proud of the kids because they played so hard. They battled," Jackson coach Brent Eckley said. "I thought we were extremely tough tonight and physical. If you go and stand between their offensive line and our defensive line, you know which guys to pick, and our kids really battled well against them for most of the night."
Jackson (7-2) carried a 28-17 lead into the break, but an interception by 6-foot-6 defensive end Ryan Herbenstreit in the third quarter proved to be all the Junior Bills needed to take control of the game.
"That was kind of when they gained momentum," Indians senior lineman Nick Freeman said. "We just couldn't get it back."
With a short field to work with, SLUH (5-4) found the end zone when quarterback Mitchell Batschelett fumbled the snap but gathered the ball and tossed a shovel pass to Clair, who found the edge and broke free down the left sideline for a 30-yard TD. Batschelett connected with Herbenstreit on the 2-point conversion, cutting the Junior Bills' deficit to 28-25 with 7 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter.
After a three-and-out, Jackson junior QB Cooper Callis was forced to jump on a loose ball on fourth down when the snap went over his head and landed at the 10-yard line. Clair scampered into the end zone untouched on the following play, giving SLUH its first lead of the game, 32-28 with 6:42 remaining in the period.
Another three-and-out gave the ball right back to the Junior Bills, who marched down field and put together a 70-yard drive that was capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Batschelett to BJ Wilson.
Batschelett, a senior, finished 10 of 22 (45 percent) through the air for 159 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.
The Indians racked up 295 yards of total offense but were held to only 30 yards in the second half, during which they moved the chains only four times.
"When we're on offense, it's tough for us to wear a team down if we're going three-and-out or turning it over and then they're taking a 12-play drive," Eckley said. "We just couldn't wear on them at all, so it was difficult."
Behind an imposing offensive line, Clair amassed 166 of his rushing yards in the second half. The 5-9, 181-pound tailback, who's committed to playing college football for Bowling Green, tacked on a pair of TD runs in the fourth quarter -- a 32-yard run at the 8:23 mark and a 15-yard burst with 2:49 remaining.
"We looked like a totally different team than from the first half," Clair said. "The offensive line stepped up big time. I couldn't do it without them. I've probably got one of the best lines in the state, if not the best line in the state."
Clair coughed up the ball on the Junior Bills' first possession of the game, and Jackson scored two plays later. Callis threw a 33-yard strike to sophomore wideout Jordan Kent that gave the Indians a 7-0 lead with 8:21 to go in the period. The two connected again on Jackson's next possession, this time from 19 yards out, extending the Indians' lead to 14-0 lead with 4:15 remaining in the first.
SLUH responded with a 12-play scoring drive on its next possession when Jared Scott bulldozed his way into the end zone from 1 yard out, trimming Jackson's lead to 14-7 with 11:14 left before halftime.
The Indians quickly regained a two-score edge on the ensuing possession when Callis blew the top off the Junior Bills' secondary with a 60-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Quentin Kent.
Batschelett responded with his first touchdown throw, converting on fourth-and-6 with a 39-yard pass to AJ Hardin and cutting the Indians' lead to 21-14 with 5:52 to go before the break.
Jackson struggled against SLUH on late downs, as the Junior Bills finished 10 of 17 (59 percent) on third down. SLUH also scored on both of its fourth-down attempts.
Despite a pair of picks, Callis completed 14 of 31 (45 percent) passes for 226 yards and four TDs, including a 17-yard TD pass to Quentin Kent that gave the Indians a 28-14 advantage with 1:43 left before halftime. A 29-yard field goal by Joe Rogan pulled the Junior Bills within 28-17 in the final seconds of the first half.
"It was an uphill night playing against them," Eckley said. "They have a lot of talent all over the field -- very talented, good system, good coaches.
"I was real pleased with the first half. We battled and scrapped in the first half and played great defense. We were physical. We struggled getting off blocks, but we squeezed our gaps well. On offense, we were just able to find some seams. The defense had some weak spots in it, and we were able to exploit that. In the second half, they kind of tweaked that a little bit, and we had some drops."
Jordan Kent led the Indians with 93 yards on five catches, while Quentin Kent added 82 yards on three grabs. Senior WR Brendan Gross contributed four receptions for 37 yards. Senior running back Bryndan Reid led Jackson on the ground with 21 carries for 94 yards, but the Indians netted only 69 yards rushing.
Despite the loss, the top-seeded Indians get a week off heading into the Class 5 District 1 playoffs with home-field advantage. They finished with 43.7 points in the district standings, barely edging second-seeded Poplar Bluff (43.1).
Jackson will take on the winner between fourth-seeded Rockwood Summit (3-6) and fifth-seeded Oakville (2-7) in a district semifinal on Oct. 28, while Poplar Bluff (8-1) will face third-seeded Vianney (4-5) in the other semifinal.
"We talked about how this was going to be a measuring stick for us to see how we measure up against a big, physical team," Eckley said. "... We're going to go back and look at some of the film and start from there. We're going to get better."
J -- Jordan Kent 33 pass from Cooper Callis (Matthew Jaco kick), 8:21
J -- J. Kent 19 pass from Callis (Jaco kick), 4:15
SLUH -- Jared Scott 1 run (Joe Rogan kick), 11:14
J -- Quentin Kent 60 pass from Callis (Jaco kick), 10:20
SLUH -- AJ Hardin 39 pass from Mitchell Batschelett (Rogan kick), 5:52
J -- Q. Kent 17 pass from Callis (Jaco kick), 1:43
SLUH -- Rogan 29 field goal, 0:10.8
SLUH -- Andrew Clair 30 pass from Batschelett (Ryan Hebenstreit conversion pass from Batschelett), 7:43
SLUH -- Clair 10 run (Rogan kick), 6:42
SLUH -- BJ Wilson 14 pass from Batschelett (Rogan kick), 0:44.3
SLUH -- Clair 32 run (Rogan kick), 8:23
SLUH -- Clair 15 run (Rogan kick), 2:49
RUSHING -- SLUH, Andrew Clair 42-271, Jared Scott 8-20, Mitchell Batschelett 6-11, Jaylan Jones 1-9; Jackson, Bryndan Reid 21-94, Drew Moran 1-13, Jordan Kent 1-2, Quentin Kent 2-0, Cooper Callis 2-(-18), Team 1-(-22).
PASSING -- SLUH, Batschelett 10-22-159-0; Jackson, Callis 14-31-226-2.
RECEIVING -- SLUH, AJ Hardin 5-64, Andrew Grassi 2-33, Clair 1-30, Daniel Terry 1-18, BJ Wilson 1-14; Jackson, J. Kent 5-93, Q. Kent 3-82, Brendan Gross 4-37, Moran 1-7, Reid 1-7.
- Photos from the game (10/15/16)