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Prep football: JCC reclaims Oaken Bucket

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

JACKSON — An elated Tom Schuller carried the “bucket” back to the Jackson County Central sidelines Thursday night after the veteran head coach watched his Huskies grind out 314 yards rushing and spread six touchdowns among a trio of players as JCC opened the 2014 high school football campaign with a 43-20 Big South Conference victory over the visiting Fairmont Cardinals at Swearingen Field.

The two squads, each with rich football traditions, had not met on the gridiron since 2006 when they played twice.

Fairmont won a regular-season clash against the Huskies (33-22) and earned possession of the Old Oaken Bucket, a traveling trophy between the two Interstate 90 rivals who — in the days before the four-lane was built — used to square off at the end of every campaign, often each as conference champions when the Jackson Bluejays finished at the top of the Southwest Conference standings and Fairmont would win the South Central.

Later, in that same 2006 season, the Huskies defeated Fairmont in the playoffs, 43-14. But the Cardinals did not relinquish the bucket, viewing that the exchange was just a regular-season tradition.

Now, eight years later, the Old Oaken Bucket is back in Jackson thanks to exceptional blocking by JCC’s rookie offensive line and the hard-running of a trio of athletic backs.

Add in a well-played performance by first-year JCC quarterback Joe Brinkman and a pair of game-breaking plays from veteran receiver/defensive back Ryan Salzwedel and the Huskies were in command.

“I am just elated,” declared Schuller moments after receiving the bucket. “Our offensive line played so well and our backs are hard to tackle. We have some work to do on defense, but we really got after it and played physical on offense.”

Three JCC players — junior running back Keegan Moore (15 carries, 185 yards), Salzwedel (a junior) and senior running back Demonte Thomas — each crossed the goal line twice as the Huskies built leads of 8-0, 30-6 and 43-14, scoring both off of sustained drives and capitalizing on big plays.

Senior fullback Paden Moore rushed for 77 yards on seven carries and Thomas (who is listed on the program as a tight end) gained 41 yards on five rushes.

It was Keegan Moore, who carried the ball on four of JCC’s first five plays, that lit up the scoreboard first. His tackle-breaking 51-yard run capped a 72-yard drive just two minutes and six seconds into the game. He tacked on the two-point conversion and the Huskies were up quickly, 8-0.

Fairmont, however, responded with a long drive of their own, capped by a 32-yard touchdown pass — on fourth-and-16 — from Spencer Chirpich (11-of-21 for 129 yards) to Ben Abel, who made a great catch in the end zone after Chirpich rolled out to his right.

The Huskies snuffed the two-point conversion try and then marched down the field with a sustained drive leading to a 31-yard touchdown burst by Thomas. Andrew Hesse kicked the extra-point through the uprights and with 2:54 remaining in the first quarter, JCC owned a 15-6 lead.

Three touchdowns scored

in exciting second quarter

After forcing a Fairmont fumble from near its own goal line, the Huskies scored early in the second quarter when Keegan Moore’s 26-yard touchdown run capped a six-play, 51-yard drive. Paden Moore made the score 23-6 by powering over for the two-point conversion with 10:15 remaining in the half.

After neither team scored for the next nine minutes, the final 45 seconds were packed with action.

Salzwedel picked off a deflected Chirpich pass and raced untouched 49 yards for a JCC touchdown, crossing the goal line with 37 seconds left. Hesse’s PAT kick increased the lead to 30-6.

The Cardinals quickly answered with a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline by sophomore running back Thomas Willett (15 carries, 93 yards) and an easy two-pointer on a sweep left by Willett.

Then with 29 seconds left, the Cardinals recovered on an onside kick and had another chance to score, but the JCC secondary covered Chirpich’s long pass attempts.

“It was a stressful night on defense,” Schuller said. “We missed too many tackles. Our deep coverage did do a nice job just before halftime.”

Brinkman to Salzwedel

highlights third quarter

Continued hard running by the Moore brothers behind the offensive line (Chris Gumto, Michael Miller, Brandon Schmit, Justin Tirevold, Kyle Kapplinger, Brody Anderson and Nate Jones) helped JCC move the chains several times in the third quarter.

A pass interception by Avery Henderson, a pair of sacks by sophomore defensive end Matt Strom and several crisp tackles by Kapplinger were among JCC’s third-quarter highlights.

But the biggest play of the period was a 50-yard touchdown strike from Brinkman to Salzwedel along the left sideline, followed by Hesse’s PAT, giving the Huskies a 37-14 advantage halfway through.

Schuller had praise for Brinkman, noting that “he played nearly flawless” in his first start as a JCC varsity quarterback.

Following a hustling fumble recovery by Zach Holm at the Fairmont 12-yard line on a Cardinal punt return attempt, Thomas scooted across from four yards out which completed JCC’s scoring with 8:58 left in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals scored late in the game (2:21) when Kale Fritz caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Tennyson.

JCC hosts traditional-rival Luverne in another Big South Conference clash Sept. 5.

Fairmont 6 8 0 6 — 20

Jackson County Central 15 15 7 6 — 43