The Jackson Broncs suffered their first loss of the season Thursday in a 46-20 loss to the Pocatello Thunder at Holt Arena in Idaho.
You could say it was the Thunder that were the better team. You could say the first road game of the season got to the Broncs. You might even blame the loss on the short week (Jackson had just 5 days to prepare with a rare Thursday game).
But the fact is, the Broncs showed more of the same as they did with Bear Lake back on September 3. This team continues to put up strong numbers, offensively, but drives stall in the red zone and the third down conversion rate is worrisome.
Add to the offensive woes, turnovers. Three Sadler Smith passes ended up in the hands of Pocatello players—two to Caleb Crittendon—although the picks can be explained away by a quarterback having to force the issue through the air with his team behind all game.
Special teams continue to be the Broncs undoing this season. To put it mildly, Jackson’s kick coverage team is atrocious.
Perhaps foreshadowed on the first play of the 2021 season when the Broncs surrendered an 89-yard touchdown runback from Teton’s Hunter Johnson, it’s been more of the same for the kick coverage team. Take away Pocatello’s three scores off special teams and this is actually a close game.
Ryken Echohawk, who is a legit burner for the Thunder, cruised to a 90-yard kickoff return for one Pocatello score. Zach Park returned another Jackson kick 93 yards to the Broncs’ 2-yard line. Jackson Williams also recovered a muffed punt for another Pokie score.
Upside is there
Plenty of room for hope in Jackson’s season even after the 26-point loss Thursday.
When this offense gets clicking, it is going to be unstoppable. Sadler Smith is a stud. The senior quarterback continues to make his progressions and reads, usually finding the open man. For the most part, the offensive line is giving Smith time to utilize his weapons, and when they can do that, defenses will suffer because it is nearly impossible to cover Nate Keipert, Colter Dawson, and Sam Scott on a consistent basis. Someone is always open.
Smith was 29-46 against Pocatello for 385 yards through the air. Brody Hasenack added 116 rushing yards and a TD on 26 carries.
Defensively, Jackson looks better than last year’s team, which was pretty good. The Broncs surrendered just 259 total yards of total offense to Pocatello.
Jackson should get a chance for a breather in the schedule with Riverton coming to town this Friday, September 17. The Wolverines (0-3) are still looking for their first win of ’21 after posing as the whipping boy of 3A powerhouses Powell and Cody in weeks 1 and 2, before losing last week to Evanston 19-13.
Riverton vs. Jackson at William T. McIntosh stadium, 6pm Friday, September 17.