In a game stuffed to the gills with turnovers, penalties and missed opportunities, the Jackson Broncs still had a chance to tie or take the lead against Bear Lake, Idaho, with under 30 seconds remaining Friday night in Jackson.
Peter Goettler claimed his second interception of the night deep in Broncs territory to give Jackson a breath of life with a bit over four minutes left to play. Two minutes later he hauled in a heave along the sideline and took it to the Bears’ 6-yard line. Three plays later Jackson found itself in a fourth-and-goal situation from the 5 with 29 seconds remaining in the game.
Sophomore quarterback Sadler Smith took the snap and looked left, expecting Goettler in the endzone on a comeback route. Instead he tucked the ball, swung right and swam upriver against a tide of Bears defenders, finally making a dive at the corner pylon. After a moment of hope for Jackson, the officials ruled that the ball came up just short, and the Bears took over possession and ran out the clock on a 13-7 victory in William T. McIntosh Stadium.
“It was one of those dream moments like you watch in the movies,” Bear Lake head coach Ryan Messerly said. “Fourth and goal? I mean how many times do you practice that growing up?”
Jackson (1-1) began the game on a sour note and seemingly never found much rhythm for the duration. Bear Lake (2-0) squibbed the opening kickoff and recovered it, scoring the first touchdown five plays later. The next Bears possession ended much the same way, with quarterback Owen Teuscher recording his second touchdown pass of the game. He finished with 242 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-37 passing.
“The intensity wasn’t there, and it showed,” Jackson head coach David Joyce said. “It took us a long time to get woken up.”
Aside from a few positive spurts, the first half was mostly marked by Jackson’s inability to complete a pass. When the Broncs finally did set themselves up to score, they failed to punch it in on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with under five minutes to play in the first half. After Bear Lake’s ensuing possession looked fruitful before fizzling out with a turnover on downs, Jackson went 67 yards in 1 minute, 17 seconds to get on the board with 27 seconds to spare.
That lone touchdown was set up by a Smith-to-Nate Keipert 36-yard connection to put the Broncs at Bear Lake’s 1. Jeydon Cox took the handoff on the scoring play before fumbling — it was Smith who picked up the loose ball and put it across the goal line.
But that score didn’t kickstart the Broncs offense. The first four Jackson possessions of the second half ended with two punts and two turnovers.
Still, the Jackson defense was there and it showed its resolve late in the third quarter. AJ McCool stopped Teuscher on a fourth and goal from the 3 to force the turnover on downs and again give life to a Broncs comeback.
“I thought our defense played really good,” Joyce said. “Thirteen points. We have to score more than that, bottom line.”
Jeydon Cox eclipsed 100 yards rushing on 26 carries, though just 15 of those yards came in the second half. Cox slipped away for a 51-yard pickup in the second half, but the Bears defense mostly kept the reigning Wyoming 3A West offensive player of the year in check.
“He’s the best back we’ll see this whole year,” Messerly said. “What we kind of preached was having him going sideline to sideline, versus north and south. That’s kind of what we focused on, and our kids did very well.”
Jackson will get back to practice this week before heading to Pinedale on Friday for its third nonconference game to start the season.
“Whether it was a fumble, penalty, dropped pass, sack — you name it,” Joyce said of Friday’s struggles. “They’re going to have to recommit to the process [this week] in practice.”
In the Broncs’ first practice since the loss on Monday, Joyce said his side had its best night of practice yet.
That should be a good sign for a team that will need to reel in the costly turnovers and avoid the pattern of penalties it suffered on Friday.
The Wranglers are coming off a 20-12 loss to Lyman to start the season after going 3-5 a year ago. Jackson defeated Pinedale 35-10 in the second week of last season in a spurt of five straight victories.
The point of focus for the Broncs D this week will be nullifying the run, which Joyce said the Wranglers rely on heavily.
Jackson will start sophomore Smith at quarterback, though Joyce said he had yet to make a decision on the longterm QB, suggesting Evans could see time in the Pinedale game as well.