Section 3AAA football: JCC to play for another state bid
BY LES KNUTSON The Globe JACKSON -- Effectively controlling the line of scrimmage, which helped the Huskies establish superior field position, Jackson County Central earned its way to the Section 3AAA high school football championship game with a...
BY LES KNUTSON
JACKSON -- Effectively controlling the line of scrimmage, which helped the Huskies establish superior field position, Jackson County Central earned its way to the Section 3AAA high school football championship game with a 26-6 victory over Tri-City United Saturday afternoon at Swearingen Field.
JCC improved to 8-2 on the season and will tangle with longtime rival Fairmont in the section finals in New Ulm Friday evening, seeking another state-tournament appearance for the tradition-rich program.
Fairmont, the section’s top-seeded team, pulled away from Luverne in the second half at Mahoney Field Saturday and earned its way back to the championship game with a 42-19 victory, snapping the Cardinals’ five-game winning streak.
It will be third consecutive time that JCC and Fairmont have played in the Section 3AAA finals, with the Huskies winning the last two. The Huskies and Cardinals have not played each other this season. Fairmont (8-1) has won six games in a row since a 14-9 loss to Class AAAA Waseca in Week 3 on Sept. 15.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing Fairmont and are ecstatic that we have an opportunity to play for the section championship with a young squad, which has improved so much throughout this season,” said JCC head coach Tom Schuller. “Our kids have come a long way since we started practice in August.”
With the sun shining and cool calm conditions prevailing Saturday, the Huskies outplayed the Titans in the second half after TCU -- representing the communities of Montgomery, Lonsdale and Le Center -- had stopped JCC on a goal-line stand to end the first half.
JCC fumbled twice in the first half and then was stopped at the one-yard line as time ran out in the second quarter.
After scoring first, on their third series, the Huskies held just a slim 8-6 lead at intermission.
The flow of the contest changed, however, in the third quarter as JCC’s defense -- which Schuller said “played lights out the entire game” -- really put the clamps on the seventh-seeded Titans, who had racked up 43 points in a 43-7 upset victory over second-seeded Sibley East in the section quarterfinals.
While TCU was unable to sustain drives in the second half, the Huskies were able to string together a trio of touchdown marches, stretching their leads to 14-6, 20-6 and 26-6.
Behind a steady dose of runs by senior fullback Jacob Tvinnereim, a wrestler with exceptional balance, JCC stayed on the ground most of the second half. Tvinnereim finished the game with 137 yards rushing on 25 carries.
Damien VanWesten, a senior running back who is an outstanding 400-meter sprinter for the Huskies during track season, carried 17 times for 105 yards, including a 16-yard run in the first quarter -- helping set up JCC’s first touchdown -- and a 20-yard gain in the fourth-quarter, setting up Tvinnereim’s four-yard TD burst.
Sophomore quarterback Rudy Voss, a fine all-around basketball player, rushed for 60 yards himself, including a 17-yard touchdown run for the Huskies which triggered JCC’s second-half scoring.
“We were able to run the ball, which helped us tilt the field in our favor and give our defense some rest,” said Schuller, who acknowledged the fine job of blocking by his offensive line.
“Eli Edlin at right tackle, Logan Bannister and Zach Neal, alternating at right guard, Kaleb Bents at center, Dylan Svoboda at left guard and Keldon Bennett at left tackle, along with tight ends Bradley Buhl and Matthew Stubbe, all did what needed to be done up front.”
It’s a young group as Svoboda is the only senior along that line. Edlin, Neal, Bannister and Bents are all juniors, while Bennett, Buhl and Stubbe are just sophomores.
Neal, who also plays fullback when the Huskies run the wishbone formation, scored JCC’s first touchdown on a five-yard run with 3:06 to play in the first quarter. Voss ran in for the two-point conversion, giving the Huskies an 8-0 lead.
JCC mounted a couple of other drives during the first half, highlighted by a 32-yard pass play along the right sideline from Voss to Ethan Lindley (five catches for 66 yards) which moved the chains for a first down early in the second quarter.
But that series ended on the Huskies’ second fumble and the Titans responded with their only touchdown drive of the game. A 13-yard pass play from Peyton Collins to Zach Sexe put TCU on the board with 3:52 left in the first half, but Lindley came up big with a crunching tackle for loss on the Titans’ two-point conversion attempt.
JCC countered by marching down the field on several strong runs from Tvinnereim, earning a first-and-goal at the TCU seven-yard line. But, the Titans held and trailed just 8-6 at the break.
Mix leads Huskies onto field to start second half Senior defensive tackle Preston Mix, who has battled through some injuries this fall, led the Huskies onto the field by bursting through the cheerleader-designed paper banner -- which read ‘JCC out of this world’ -- after the Huskies’ coaching staff made their halftime adjustments.
With Mix, Edlin, Svoboda, Bannister and Stubbe dominating up front and JCC’s secondary “playing their best game of the year” according to Schuller, the Huskies stymied the Titans in the third and fourth quarters.
An early interception by senior defensive back Zach Poelaert stopped TCU’s first possession and a gang-tackle by linebackers Tvinnereim and Neal, along with defensive tackle Svoboda, was huge on the next series.
A bit later, Voss faked a handoff, faked a pitch and kept the ball himself, streaking 17 yards for a JCC touchdown -- and a 14-6 lead -- with 6:16 showing on the third-quarter clock.
“That was an inside veer option,” Schuller said. “Rudy executed it well.”
After more defensive stops, including an interception by Tvinnereim, the Huskies rattled off a 14-play drive, covering 75 yards over the last two minutes of the third quarter and more than four minutes of the fourth. Voss (8-of-15 passing for 92 yards) scrambled to his right and completed the drive by tossing an 11-yard TD pass to Stubbe with 7:48 to play in the game.
Tvinneriem’s four-yard touchdown came just two minutes later (5:42) and completed the game’s scoring.
Along with the second-half interceptions by Poelaert and Tvinnereim, the Huskies knocked down at least four other Titan pass attempts as Parker Benda, Stubbe, Jack Brinkman and Nathaniel Post -- all sophomores -- each got a hand on a ball, preventing a TCU completion. Benda earlier tipped the pass which Tvinnereim intercepted.
“As I said, our defense played absolutely lights out,” summed up Schuller. “We got great pressure from our defensive line and our guys in the secondary broke up passes, which was huge for us.”
JCC finished with 446 yards of offense (354 on the ground, 92 passing), while limiting the Titans to a mere 29 yards rushing and 98 yards through the air for a total of 127.
TCU finished its season at 3-7.
TCU 6 0 0 0 -- 6
JCC 8 0 6 12 -- 26