Friday night’s meeting between Jackson and Star Valley was sure to be a clash of two tenacious defenses. And for most of the game it was.
But between a Braves offense that runs as deep as any and their special teams unit that has nearly perfected the craft, the Broncs defense finally relented for a 30-0 3A West loss in Afton.
It marks the third-straight game Star Valley (7-0, 3-0) has earned a shutout. But the Broncs, too, were unyielding on defense until the final minute of the first half.
The Braves took a 7-0 lead into the half on a RJ Cazier 1-yard score on fourth and goal with 33 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
A back-and-forth third quarter ended with a 40-yard touchdown for the Braves, and midway into the fourth quarter they recorded a safety to go up 16-0.
Meanwhile, the Broncs (4-3, 1-2) were running out of time and struggling to move the ball through the air. Even on the ground in the first half, running back Jeydon Cox failed to find wiggle room. He finished with 16 carries for just 39 yards unofficially.
Jackson suffered two punts, two turnovers on downs and one safety on its final five possessions.
Through the air, Broncs quarterback Sadler Smith finished 16-of-36 for 156 yards and an interception. Receiver Peter Goettler had seven catches for 79 yards.
Star Valley had its own struggles moving the ball early on in the match, but a four-headed rushing attack between its two running backs, fullback and quarterback broke through in the second half when Jackson was most in need of stops.
“This year we’ve got guys healthy, some guys have developed,” Braves coach McKay Young said.
A year ago Young relied mostly on Cazier to carry the ball. Not so much this time, although the senior did carry 22 times for a game-high 113 yards and two touchdowns.
“You could see [running only Cazier] wasn’t going to happen tonight,” he said. “It took three or four running at a time, and it’s nice to be able to do that for sure.”
The Braves’ work on special teams was crucial to keeping Jackson from putting together many meaningful possessions. Twice Star Valley pinned punts inside the 5-yard line, and twice it came away with blocked Jackson punts, one of which resulted in the safety that seemed to wilt the Broncs offense for the remainder of the game.
Jackson will look to regroup ahead of its road trip to Evanston next week.