SECTION 3AA FOOTBALL: Full steam ahead for JCC

JACKSON --- Driving for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions Saturday afternoon, the top-seeded Jackson County Central Huskies advanced to the finals of the Section 3AA high school football playoffs with a 30-3 victory over Windom in the semifi...

JCC's Zach Copley, Windom's Levi Gotto
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Huskies running back Zach Copley (34) is tackled by Eagle Levi Gotto (2) during Saturday afternoon's Section 3AA playoff matchup in Jackson. JCC racked up 334 yards of total offense in its 30-3 victory over the Eagles.

JACKSON --- Driving for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions Saturday afternoon, the top-seeded Jackson County Central Huskies advanced to the finals of the Section 3AA high school football playoffs with a 30-3 victory over Windom in the semifinals.

The game, however, was closer than the score suggested.

The Huskies (9-1) controlled the line of scrimmage most of the contest and racked up a lot more offensive yardage (344 to 83), but JCC turned the ball over five times to an opportunistic Eagle defense, which helped Windom stay in contention for the game's first 23 minutes.

But with a 1:04 to play in the second quarter --- after Windom's Danny David-Martinez booted an impressive 43-yard field, making the score 7-3 in favor of JCC --- the Huskies responded with a three-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that seemed to turn the tide of the contest.

"That was huge," JCC head coach Tom Schuller said after the game about the scoring drive to end the first half. "That was a back breaker for Windom and a momentum lifter for us."


After the David-Martinez field goal, JCC's Trevon Bargfrede returned the ensuing kickoff 23 yards to the JCC 37-yard line.

On the next play, quarterback Joel Hartzler ripped off a 36-yard run, giving the Huskies a first down at the Eagle 27.

Hartzler, who broke a pair of tackles and eluded a couple of others on his game-changing run, nearly took the ball all the way to the end zone, but he was driven out-of-bounds by Windom senior strong safety Nick Eisenmenger, who made many outstanding defensive plays for the Eagles.

Hartzler gained five yards on a carry to the left on the next play, being brought down by Windom's Jake Holt.

Then, facing a second down and five from the Eagle 22-yard line, Hartzler lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone. It appeared that Windom's Joel Riordan may intercept the ball, but somehow Bargfrede went up high and came down with the catch for a JCC touchdown with 30 seconds left in the first half.

"That was a monster play for us," declared Schuller. "So was the run by Joel that set up that score. We were thinking of just running out the clock, but after that long run, we had good field position --- so we took a chance, and what a catch by Trevon. That's the advantage of having tall receivers."

Bargfrede, a senior who stands 6-4 and tips the scales at 180 pounds, has made several similar catches for the Huskies this season.

Holding a 14-3 lead to start the second half, the Huskies sustained a well-executed nine-play, 52-yard drive that gave them a 21-3 advantage with 7:05 remaining in the third quarter.


That drive also started with a big kick return by Bargfrede, which allowed JCC to start that series from its own 48.

Five minutes and 55 seconds later, Hartzler rolled to his left and fired a strike to freshman tight end Zach Copley (6-2, 243) for a six-yard touchdown play to cap the drive.

JCC senior back Taylor Menke, who scored the Huskies first touchdown in the opening quarter, booted his third straight PAT, boosting the lead to 18 points.

Menke and junior back Jordan Phibbs each had several strong runs on that JCC march, and a 24-yard pass connection from Hartzler to Bargfrede (three catches, 52 yards) had moved the ball from the Windom 44 to the 20-yard line on the fourth play of the drive.

Windom answered with a nice 27-yard kick return by senior Billy Hochstein (from the Eagle 26 to the JCC 47). Hochstein, who finished with 19 yards rushing on seven carries, had a couple of nice gains on that drive, including a 10-yard burst up the middle for an Eagle first down at the JCC 30-yard line.

But, as had happened several times in the first half, the JCC defense was able to stop the Eagles from advancing any farther and took over on downs.

Both Schuller and Elder credited the JCC defensive line with being a big factor in the outcome of the game.

"Our defensive line did a nice job all game long," praised Schuller. "Our offensive line did a much better job in the second half after we made some adjustments. Windom was giving us a lot of trouble with their shifting defensive formations in the first half."


"We switched things up quite a bit on defense," explained Elder about the various alignments the Eagles employed. "The tactic worked pretty well for most of the first half and we came up with some key turnovers. But like good teams do, JCC adjusted and handled us better in the second half."

While the Huskies --- who rushed 43 times in the game for 239 yards and completed seven of 15 passes for 105 yards --- were more consistent on offense after intermission, the Eagles were unable to mount many sustained drives against JCC.

The Eagles had another chance right away, as Riordan recovered a JCC fumble at midfield with three minutes to play in the third quarter. Windom's Jared Peterson picked up nine yards on the Eagles' first play, but soon after JCC's Garrett Walterman recovered an Eagle fumble, stopping the brief Windom drive at the JCC 46-yard line.

"We hurt our own chances a few times, too," Elder said. "We would move the ball some and then penalties and mistakes costs us yards and we often faced unfavorable down and distance situations."

The Huskies ran off eight offensive plays as the third quarter wound down and attempted a 42-yard field goal by Menke on the first play of the fourth quarter, after the teams switched ends and JCC had the wind at its back.

The kick was short and the Eagles took over, but a big hit by JCC's Steven Salzwedel highlighted that defensive stand by the Huskies, who were assuming control of the contest.

After Windom's sixth punt of the game, the Huskies began at the Eagle 44-yard line.

Hartzler, who finished 6-of-14 passing for 90 yards and ran eight times for 77 yards, had a 16-yard gain on that series, as the Huskies moved the ball well.


The drive ended, however, with an interception at the seven-yard by Eagle junior Levi Gotto --- Windom's second pick of the game.

After the interception, Windom was unable to move the ball and faced a fourth-and-15.

David-Martinez punted from deep in the Eagle end zone, and JCC rushed hard. Senior defensive end Phillip Pronk blocked the punt, which sailed out of the end zone, giving the Huskies a two-point safety and a 23-3 lead with 5:51 to play in the game.

With junior Tanner Asa taking over as JCC's quarterback, the Huskies marched for another touchdown, capped by Asa's four-yard rollout run with 1:55 left on the clock. The PAT kick was good by junior Zach Steiner.

Three turnovers hampered the Huskies in the first half, as Windom recovered a pair of fumbles (one by Cody Mischke and one by Peterson) and Eisenmenger intercepted a pass over the middle and returned the ball 17 yards to spark the Eagle defensive effort.

Elder had high praise for the defensive play of Eisenmenger, who played several positions and came up with numerous solo tackles, including a hard-hitting sack that slowed up one early JCC drive.

"Nick is an 'in your face Southwest Conference type of player,'" declared Elder. "He played four positions on defense for us in this game and played them all well."

After Eisenmenger's interception --- which put the ball at the JCC 43-yard line --- the Eagles quickly moved the chains down to the 24 when Travis Mattson connected with Holt for a 17-yard gain on second and eight.


That, however, was where that Eagle drive stalled out.

A later one --- set by Peterson's recovery at the Windom 39 --- was sustained longer and ended up with David Martinez's long field goal.

An 11-yard run by Riordan (five carries, 21 yards) and an 12-yard pass play from Mattson to Holt (two catches, 29 yards) helped the Eagles move the ball on that series.

The Huskies had scored at the 5:08 mark of the first quarter when Menke capped a 52-yard drive with a one-yard dive to the left.

The Eagles finish their season with a 4-6 record, while the Huskies will advance to face defending section champion Luverne in the title game Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Windom 0 3 0 0 -- 3

JCC 7 7 7 9 -- 30


Windom's Lee Holt, Jared Peterson and JCC's Steven Salzwedel
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Eagle Lee Holt (80) goes out to block for teammate Jared Peterson (3) following a reception as Huskie Steven Salzwedel (21) comes up for the tackle during Saturday's playoff in Jackson.

What To Read Next
Get Local