The Broncs did a lot of things right, but enough things went wrong that the home team had to feel releived about escaping a defensive battle with a plucky Bear Lake team, 20-8. Perhaps the Bears were channeling a a little bit of the 2019 meeting when Bear Lake shocked the Broncs with a 13-7 upset at the Willie Mac.
Offense sputters in the red zone
Jackson racked up plenty of yardage between the 20s but the wheels came off every time the home team was in the red zone. Same for the Bears who could not move ball on the ground at all against the stout Broncs defensive line, but did find some success exploiting the Broncs inexperienced cover corners.
If anyone had the over-under at 28, we’d be shocked, but there we were 0-0 at the half.
Promising Jackson drives stalled out on two interceptions of Sadler Smith and a couple of turnover on downs when the Broncs went for it on 4th down and failed to covert.
Smith was 18-31 in the first half alone. He finished the night 20-34 as the Broncs went almost exclusively to the run in the final 20 minutes. Smith connected with his emerging favorite target, tight end Colter Dawson, on several big plays. He also made good reads on quick hitters to Nate Keipert who was given a lot of cushion by DBs early in the game.
The Broncs broke the scoreless tie on their first play from scrimmage to begin the second half when Smith hooked up with Keipert for a 65-yard touchdown strike. Jon Vasquez Vargas missed the PAT.
The 6-0 lead didn’t last long. The Bears came storming back and spent nearly 5 minutes in the Broncs’ end of the field with flag after flag extending Bear Lake’s look at the end zone. A questionable spot for a first down, a mysterious facemask, a roughing the QB call, a sketchy pass interference penalty, and…well…officials seemed intent on giving the Bears a real shot at tying things up. And they did.
Bears QB Tayson Neal found the 6’2” sophomore Bryson Crane twice in one-on-one coverage with junior Kaleb Lunde—one for the touchdown and one for the successful 2-point conversion to make it 8-6 Bear Lake.
That’s all the points the Jackson defense would surrender for the game as they turned Bear Lake into a one-dimensional passing team and feasted on sacks—7 in all.
Change in strategy
Coach David Joyce then inserted star running back Brody Hasenack into the game for the first time, and showed a jumbo package featuring a double tight end running set that sought to take advantage of Jackson’s size.
It worked and Hasenack burst free for a TD scamper to put the Broncs up for good. Hasenack finished with 94 yards total rushing.
“We ended up pulling them out of their offense completely. They went to that 2-tight, which we’ve never seen Jackson ever run. So, if Jackson’s in that 2-tight package, we did our job. And we also had over 300 yards in offense, mostly on that out route that Jackson didn’t seem to have an answer for,” said assistant coach Cameron Crane, assessing the positives. “But they’re a very good football team. I can’t overstate how good of a team that is over there, and we fully expect them to go on and do big things at state.”
It was a win ugly game for the Broncs and there will be those on the path to glory. Jackson gets its first taste of life on the road this week, where they played well last year, as they travel to take on the Pocatello (2-0) at the Holt Arena.
Jackson Broncs vs Pocatello Thunder at Holt Arena. Thursday, September 9, at 6pm. NOTE: This game has been moved twice due to availability of Holt Arena.