After Jackson went up by 18 points over Teton High School late in the fourth quarter Friday, it seemed the remaining 6 minutes and change on the clock were all but a formality.
But the Driggs, Idaho, team responded, recovering a fumble and marching down the field to score with 1:21 left to play. Teton then recovered an onside kick and scored again, slashing the Broncs’ lead to four with 39.8 seconds left on the clock.
Jackson’s hands team did come through on Teton’s second onside kick attempt, and the Broncs ran out the clock for a 38-32 season-opening win.
“We got the win, but it’s not really the win we wanted,” receiver Peter Goettler said. “But we’re still going to celebrate.”
After the final buzzer Friday, Jackson celebrated both its first 1-0 start since downing Teton in 2014 and bringing home the new “Battle of the Tetons” rivalry trophy.
“It means a lot,” running back Jeydon Cox said. “Last year it helped us too, even though we lost. It really motivated us. This win will get us moving and going.”
Cox, the returning 3A West Offensive Player of the Year, picked up right where he left off in 2018. The senior carried the ball 25 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s small, but he’s strong, too,” Jackson coach David Joyce said of the listed 5-foot-8 back. “So he played like Jeydon always plays.”
But it wasn’t Cox who opened the scoring onslaught for Jackson. On the first play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Sadler Smith faked a reverse, stepped back and found a wide-open Nate Keipert for a 75-yard touchdown.
Jackson extended its lead to 14-0 on a 29-yard run from Cox on a direct snap, one of his two scores coming by way of taking the snap himself.
Teton hung around, with quarterback Dusty Hess leading the charge, but the Broncs went into the half with a somewhat comfortable 26-13 lead.
Teton added a score in the third quarter, cutting the Broncs’ lead to 26-20 heading into the final frame. Senior quarterback Pearson Evans, who entered in the second half, connected with Goettler on a 34-yard touchdown two plays into the fourth and again found him the next drive for a 20-yard touchdown pass to put the Jackson lead at 38-20 with 6:03 on the clock.
On Teton’s next drive it was Goettler making the play, tracking a deep ball and beating the Teton receiver to give Jackson its first forced turnover of the night.
“Really, all kudos to Jeydon,” he said of his touchdowns. “They can’t stop his run, then all the corners come up, and I can just leak out of the back.
“With the interception I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Joyce and his players pointed to miscues on offense and missed tackles on defense as partial culprits for Teton’s comeback coming as close as it did.
“Bottom line is, we’ve got to hold on to the football,” Joyce said. “Both of those [turnovers] were preventable based on the alignment and based on the defense.”
Teton left the field with its first loss to the Broncs since that 2014 meeting, and without the Battle of the Tetons trophy. Still, head coach Brody Birch was pleased with his team’s effort, all the way through the final horn.
“I’m proud of them, the way they competed,” he said. “We made too many mistakes, blown coverages and missed tackles, some execution things offensively, and Jackson capitalized.”
There isn’t much time for Jackson to celebrate its new trophy or correct the mistakes that had the win in doubt late in the game. The Broncs will host the Bear Lake (Idaho) Bears on Friday night, a second-straight nonconference game to begin the year.
The last time the two sides met, Jackson was a 41-13 winner in Week 2 of the 2018 season. Jackson racked up 520 yards in that victory, including 366 on the ground. That victory broke Jackson’s multiseason losing streak of 16 and sent the Broncs on a tear of five straight wins before closing the regular season 7-2.
But a full year separates that turning point for Jackson, and Bear Lake is off to a 1-0 start as well. The Bears’ defense was impenetrable a week ago, when it held Rich High School (Utah) scoreless in a 40-0 season-opening victory.
Jackson is expected to use both its quarterbacks again this week after starting Smith for the first half in the opener. Evans took control of the offense for the second half. Smith finished with 170 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 8-of-13 passing. Evans completed 6 of his 10 passes, racking up 66 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also carried the ball five times, netting 67 yards on the ground.
“I thought they both played OK,” Joyce said. “I thought there were bright spots for both of them. There were spots where they’ve got to take what the defense gives us, and there were a few moments where they didn’t.”
As for who it is going forward, Goettler isn’t terribly concerned who is throwing the ball. He trusts both Smith and Evans to get the job done.
“They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I love them both,” he said. “They both can take us quite far, I think, and I don’t prefer one or the other.”