After Powell tied the game at 14, the Jackson Broncs took over with just under eight minutes left in the game, 74 yards to come between them and the go-ahead score Friday night on the road.
Running the ball through tailback Brody Hasenack hadn’t come as easy as it has all season long. While he’s usually capable of ripping off big chunks in one snap, he was largely held to minimal gains and often stuck into the turf by a pack of large-bodied Panthers without much to show for it.
Still, Jackson took to the ground on its final possession. The Broncs used 14 plays, most of which were carries by either Hasenack or quarterback Sadler Smith, to get down to the Panthers’ 23. Smith then rolled out on second-and-8, dodged a few would-be sacks, and lofted the ball toward the front of the end zone where receiver Sam Lopeman was forced to come back on his route to contend for the ball. He rose up just over top of the Powell defender, grabbed the pass and shuffled into the end zone in what ultimately became the final score in Jackson’s 21-14 win.
The victory for the Broncs plants them firmly in charge of the 3A West, now 7-1 (4-0 3A West) on the year with just one week remaining. The Panthers drop to 5-2, 2-2.
Heading into Friday night’s tilt, Jackson head coach David Joyce had made note of Powell’s ability to stop the run with its defensive front. For most of the contest, it did just that. On the Broncs’ second drive of the game, they elected to go for it on fourth-and-5 from their own 25-yard line. The play went no where, setting up Powell for what became the first score of the game, an eight-yard quarterback keeper to go up 7-0 toward the end of the first quarter.
Just before the half, Jackson was able to strip sack the Powell quarterback with Lopeman recovering the fumble to set the Broncs up at Powell’s 28 with 70 seconds remaining in the quarter. Four plays later Jackson went with a trick pass to find Lopeman open in the endzone to send the game into the break tied at 7.
The Broncs then took their first lead of the game midway through the third, with Smith plunging into the end zone from two yards out to have Jackson up 14-7. The Panthers fumbled on their next drive, and Jackson’s ensuing possession ended with a turnover on downs at Powell’s 20 — the third time Jackson went for it on fourth down and failed.
Powell then took advantage. The Panthers worked down to the Broncs’ 3-yard line before knotting the game at 14 with a quarterback sneak.
That set the stage for Jackson’s long, methodical, game-winning drive that took up nearly seven minutes of game time before finishing with the winning score.
Still, Jackson was not yet out of the water.
Powell, too, found itself largely working the run game all night, with not much more success than Jackson. But as the Panthers took over possession, down a score with 55 seconds remaining, it was obvious the run game would not be an option for that final drive. The Panthers did get the ball out near midfield, but successive deep throws turned up nothing.
Jackson will have the opportunity to cement its top seed for the state playoffs in the final game of the season next week, when Cody visits William T. McIntosh Stadium on Friday.