JCC muscles Fairmont for 3AAA football title
JANESVILLE -- Last year and the year before, the Fairmont Cardinals downed Jackson County Central to win section high school football championships. But Saturday belonged to the Huskies as they convincingly drummed the Cards out of the Section 3AAA picture, 36-12.
Playing on a turf field at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School, the Huskies proved themselves the dominant team on both lines, and behind both lines.
Running backs Bradley Buhl Jr. and Elijah Meium-Bratrud led a highly productive offensive backfield. Behind a defensive line that sprung off the center snap like tigers, the JCC linebacking core led by Cole Kapplinger, Alex Bretzman, Buhl and Levi Lindley seemed always to be wreaking havoc in the Fairmont backfield. The Huskies’ highly efficient senior quarterback, Rudy Voss, threw the ball sparingly because … well, passing was basically unnecessary.
“I thought our defense was outstanding. We thought we could run the ball. We really didn’t throw the ball a lot. We didn’t have to,” said JCC head coach Tom Schuller. “We were really handling them up front, and when we do, we don’t want to throw very much. We don’t want to throw for entertainment value.”
Jackson County Central advanced to 10-0 on the season with its Section 3AAA championship victory and will play the Waseca Bluejays in a first-round state tournament game next Saturday, noon start, at Lakeville South High School.
JCC took advantage of three Fairmont turnovers in the first half in Janesville to produce a 21-6 lead after two quarters. But it was Fairmont that scored first late in the opening quarter on a third-and-23 touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Jorgensen to Caden Baarts covering 39 yards.
The Huskies answered quickly. Set up by a 43-yard pass from Voss to tight end Keaton Storm, who was wide open over the middle, JCC found paydirt with 41 seconds remaining in the quarter on a 3-yard run by Buhl. Storm kicked the point-after and the score was 7-6.
Fairmont fumbled on its first play from scrimmage after the score, allowing the Huskies to motor in from the FHS 34-yard line. Meium-Bratrud got the TD on a 27-yard scamper through the middle of the Cards’ defense. Cutting left, he out-raced all the defenders to the goal.
Voss ran in a 2-point conversion.
A second second-quarter JCC score came on the heels of another Fairmont fumble. JCC needed to maneuver through just 20 yards of turf for the score, and Voss got it on a fourth-and-1 play from the 11-yard line.
Jackson County Central made it 29-6 with 9:54 to go in the third quarter on a 16-yard run by Buhl up the middle. The 6-foot, 215-pound senior carried Cardinals with him along the route, and he also ran in the conversion.
Fairmont’s Baartz took the ensuing squib kick 81 yards for a touchdown, however, proving that there was still a little bit of life in the Cardinals. Not enough, however, as JCC’s Lindley capped the scoring late in the third quarter with a 1-yard TD run after the Cards failed on a fake punt and pass attempt on a fourth-and-six situation at their own 34-yard line.
Buhl was tough to bring down all day.
“That’s what I’ve done since the third grade,” said the big, bulky senior. “We ran hard, we blocked well. It went perfect for us today. We were focused on the run the entire week. I’m glad it paid off.”
Senior 6-4, 215-pound lineman Andrew Hesebeck agreed that all went pretty much according to plan, thanks to the run game.
“We wanted to dominate from the start. If they had to deal with it for four quarters, it was going to be tough to deal with us,” he said. “Over the last two summers we’ve been lifting with each other almost every day. It’s really come together for blocking, speed, agility, stuff like that.”
Schuller said the Huskies learned their lessons after losing to the Cardinals the last two seasons. The JCC players said it was good to beat them this time.
“It makes it ten times sweeter, and it just makes you appreciate everyone you’re with. It makes you appreciate it ten times more,” said Buhl.
“We didn’t want that feeling again, for the last two years,” said Hesebeck. “We wanted to do something special.”