Jackson football meets familiar end in 49-14 loss to Vianney in district championship
With tears in their eyes, the seniors exchanged hugs with one another as the Jackson football team left the field following Friday night's Class 5 District 1 championship at The Pit.
There wasn't much to be said amidst the heartbreak of an all-too-familiar outcome -- for the second year in a row, the Indians dropped an identical 49-14 decision against a physically superior St. John Vianney squad.
Sophomore wide receiver Kyren Williams scored five touchdowns for the third-seeded Golden Griffins, who racked up 436 total yards of offense and limited top-seeded Jackson to 228 total yards.
"They played physical. Props to them," Indians senior lineman Nick Freeman said. "The quarterback got it out pretty fast, and their wide receivers can catch. They're just, all in all, a good team. We just had trouble a lot."
With the game tied at 14-all, Jackson (8-3) appeared ready to go toe-to-toe with its district nemesis, driving the ball from its own 22-yard line inside goal territory. However, on the second play of the second quarter, junior quarterback Cooper Callis' shovel pass to senior wideout Quentin Kent was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, turning the ball over on downs at the 5.
"We didn't execute perfectly, but more importantly, I had a bust on a play call that I shouldn't have had on third down. And it cost us," Jackson coach Brent Eckley said. "If we would've scored on that one, it's a little bit different of a game."
Vianney (6-5) responded with a grueling drive that went 95 yards in a span of 22 plays. During the drive, the Golden Griffins converted three fourth downs, one of which came on fourth-and-30 when Williams hauled in a pass over the middle from junior QB Tionne Harris and willed his way across the first-down marker.
"It was very frustrating because we thought we had a good chance there," Eckley said. "We thought they might just quick kick it and pin us back, but yeah, that was critical. If we get a stop there, that makes a huge difference."
Vianney finished a perfect 8 of 8 on fourth down, including a 1-yard TD run by Williams that ended the drive and moved Vianney ahead for good at 21-14 with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first half.
"I'm not upset at any one player or any group of players. It's no one's fault," Eckley said. "It's just their kids made some plays on fourth down, and we just fell a little short on making those plays. But that's how it goes."
The Indians were never able to recover, totaling only 25 yards of offense for the rest of the game.
"I thought our kids played tough," Eckley said. "I'm disappointed that we didn't finish any better than we did. I'm disappointed that we didn't execute on offense, but I'm real proud of the kids -- a great effort."
Jackson went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, as Williams hauled in a 20-yard pass from Harris just before halftime to extend the Golden Griffins' lead to 28-14 at the break. Harris finished 23-of-28 passing (82 percent) for 276 yards with two TDs. The 5-foot-9 dual-threat signal caller also ran for a score and had 16 carries for a game-high 84 yards.
"He did a nice job. I thought he threw it maybe a little bit better than what we were expecting going in," Eckley said. "I was pleased with how we did defensively against the run in the first half. They just made big plays throwing it against us, and at some point, you're going to have to pick your poison."
Jackson was able to get the ball back when the second-half kickoff was muffed and turned over, but an incompletion on fourth-and-2 gave the ball right back to Vianney.
"We didn't execute. We were right there. We had a perfect situation set up, and we just didn't connect," Eckley said. "... We had a hitch-and-go and were clean on top. We just missed it."
The Golden Griffins drove 61 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Harris to Williams on fourth-and-12 and extending Vianney's lead to 35-14 with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter.
"They were pretty physical, and we knew they would be going in," Eckley said. "They have us out-sized in a lot of spots. They're probably averaging 270 or so up front, and that's a challenge. In addition to that, they've got the two receivers that are sophomores that both have Division I offers, so it's pretty difficult for us to single them."
Callis threw an interception on Jackson's next play from scrimmage, and the Golden Griffins took advantage of the short field. Sophomore WR Cam Coleman concluded a short scoring drive when he found pay dirt on a 1-yard run with 2:51 left in the period. The Indians fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Williams scored four plays later with a 10-yard run on fourth-and-1 to force a running clock with 55.3 seconds remaining in the quarter.
On the opening possession of the game, the Indians went 80 yards in 11 plays. On third-and-goal, Callis lunged into the end zone from 4 yards out after the play broke down, giving Jackson a 7-0 advantage with 9:26 remaining in the first quarter.
"It was one of those plays that we're looking forward to him making more," Eckley said. "He is an extremely savvy kid. He's one of the smartest I've ever coached. He made a great run on that."
After Vianney tied the game at 7-all on a 13-yard run by Harris, Callis led the Indians on a 64-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 20-yard pass to Drew Moran, a play in which he got the defensive back to bite before lofting the ball over the defender and hitting his receiver in stride. The TD gave Jackson its final lead, 14-7, with 7:06 to go in the first.
Callis completed 14 of 26 passes (54 percent) for 196 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His top target was Kent, who finished with six catches for 85 yards.
Williams tied the game at 14-all on the next drive, scoring from 1 yard out on fourth-and-goal late in the period. He had 24 touches and racked up 168 yards from scrimmage, including a game-high 123 receiving. Vianney sophomore Zach Zerwig added seven catches for 109 yards.
Senior Bryndan Reid finished with 13 rushes for 46 yards in his final game in a Jackson uniform. He's one of 18 seniors who will graduate from this year's squad, a group that Eckley called "outstanding."
"I love these boys," Eckley said. "I'm so proud of them. There was such great leadership from the seniors on our leadership council. They were such great encouragers. They did a great job of sticking together. They didn't point fingers. At no point when we experienced adversity during the season did they point fingers or look down on one another. They encouraged one another and helped one another. I was really, really pleased with that.
"It made it such a joy to coach them."
Before the season, Eckley said he felt a strong sense of unity from his team and that paid off in winning the SEMO North Conference title.
Even as they hugged one another in the face of defeat, that unity remained evident.
"It's a brotherhood, and it'll always be a brotherhood, no matter what," Kent said. "... They're my brothers. They'll always be my brothers."
J -- Cooper Callis 4 run (Matthew Jaco kick), 9:26
V -- Tionne Harris 13 run (Jimmy Lahrman kick), 8:07
J -- Drew Moran 20 pass from Callis (Jaco kick), 7:06
V -- Kyren Williams 1 run (Lahrman kick), 3:29
V -- Williams 1 run (Lahrman kick), 3:10
V -- Williams 20 pass from Harris (Lahrman kick), 0:15.9
V -- Williams 15 pass from Harris (Lahrman kick), 7:07
V -- Cam Coleman 1 run (Lahrman kick), 2:51
V -- Williams 10 run (Lahrman kick), 0:55.3
RUSHING -- Vianney, Tionne Harris 16-84, Kyren Williams 15-45, Mickey Morrell 6-22, Cam Coleman 7-21, Miric Byas 1-(-1), Team, 4-(-11); Jackson, Bryndan Reid 13-46, Jordan Kent 2-8, Quentin Kent 2-1, Cooper Callis 5-(-23).
PASSING -- Vianney, Harris 23-28-276-0; Jackson, Callis 14-26-196-1.
RECEIVING -- Vianney, Williams 9-123, Zach Zerwig 7-109, Kevin Reilly 2-23, Coleman 5-21; Jackson, Q. Kent 6-85, Drew Moran 3-56, Reid 3-33, J. Kent 2-22.
- Photos from the game (11/04/16)