Information by Roger Jester
Photos by Melissa Adams
CHILLICOTHE — Hit me with your best shot.
In a prize fight, a skilled boxer offers a series of strategically-placed jabs, intertwining harder hits to keep the opponent off guard, all to set up the knock-out punch to end the misery.
From the outset against Fairland High School in the Regional Semi-Final matchup, the West Jefferson High School football team had the Dragons on the ropes, letting them hang around just long enough to deliver the deciding strike.
A bruising defensive effort by the Roughriders frustratingly-overwhelmed the higher-seeded Fairland (Proctorville) squad as West Jeff earned a 33-8 victory over the Dragons Saturday at Herrnstein Field. WJ advances to take on top-seeded Fort Frye Saturday at a yet-to-be-determined location.
Led by Asher Wilson (team-leading nine tackles), Johnathan Rickenbacker, and Canyon Schneider, the Roughrider defense made it a long evening for Fairland quarterback Peyton Jackson and his teammates. The Roughriders recorded four sacks and five tackles for loss on the night.
The Dragons’ problems started right out of the gate as West Jefferson’s MJ Book picked off a pass on the fourth play of the game. Then, after the Roughriders were forced to punt, WJ recovered a fumble after the kick bounced off the back of a Fairland player.
Getting the ball at the 30, West Jeff took advantage of the short field and eventually converted the turnover into a 32-yard Mason Cordetti, putting the first points on the board of the game.
The Dragons embarked on a promising drive with solid runs by QB Jackson, JD Brumfield, and Zander Schmidt, only to have it thwarted by a Schneider sack.
Fairland tried the same tactic as Dragon RJ Ward sacked WJ QB Tyler Buescher. But like a skilled boxer who pulls himself off of the mat, Buescher completed a 26 yard pass to Book which took the Roughriders to the end zone doorstep as the first quarter expired.
Hayden Salyer took the ball in from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter. The extra point bounced off the upright, but the Roughriders still held a 9-0 lead.
On their next series, Fairland chose not to punt but go for it on fourth down. It would be the first of seven times on the night the Roughrider defense would get the ball on downs.
On their next possession, the Dragons did choose to punt since they lost substantial yardage due to sacks by Schneider and Wilson. West Jeff converted their possession to a 33-yard Cordetti field goal, and a 12-0 lead.
With time winding down in the first half, Fairland showed signs of life as Dragon Jackson connected with Schmidt for a 33 yard scoring strike. A Brycen Hunt run then cut the West Jeff lead to 12-8 with two minutes remaining until the intermission.
Not satisfied with sitting on a four point lead, West Jeff took to the offensive. Buescher dropped a perfect 48-yard pass into the arms of the double-covered Book, coming down at the seven yard line. Not to panic, Salyer took it into the end zone with 7.6 seconds remaining, increasing the Roughrider lead to 19-8 at the intermission.
Entering the third quarter, West Jeff stayed committed to the run – led by Salyer who totaled 153 yard on the night. Their patience paid off as Salyer scored again, but this time it was via the air thanks to Buescher from 17 yards out. Book ended the scoring for the Roughriders (and the game) with a 15 yard TD reception of a Buescher pass.
The Roughriders are awaiting the location where they will be faceoff against top-seeded Fort Frye next Saturday.