For a half, under the slanting sun at Braves Field, the Broncs couldn’t get a thing to go their way. But when the lights came on in the second half, so did Jackson—roaring back from a 22-0 deficit to shock Star Valley 28-22.
Jackson didn’t play as poorly in the first half as the statistics would make it seem. Star Valley hampered the Broncs’ passing game a bit, and the stout defensive line of the Braves held the Jackson running game in check. With just 97 yards of offense in the first half for Jackson, it was clear the Broncs offense wouldn’t stay bottled for a full 48 minutes.
Tale of two quarters
Star Valley owned the 2nd quarter, putting up all 22 of their points in that 12-minute frame as Jackson surrendered big pass plays from the arm of Taft McClure who ended up 15-25 for 232 yards, but it was his 2 interceptions that proved costly.
The Jackson offense sputtered in the first half. Glimpses were there but the Broncs could not put together a complete drive. All that would change when the two teams returned to the field after halftime.
The 3rd quarter was all Jackson as Sadler Smith bought himself extra time in the pocket with uncanny elusiveness. Colter Dawson, again, was Smith’s favorite target. Dawson finished the night with 6 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Smith found other receivers, however. Sam Scott, Nate Keipert, and Clancy Meagher were also on the receiving end of passes. Keipert dropped two, including a sure TD pass.
One lousy safety stood between the Broncs and Braves in the waning moments of the game. With time ticking down on the Jackson comeback, the Broncs found themselves down 22-20 with 3:09 to play and the ball at their own 44. Coach David Joyce had 1 timeout in his pocket. He needed it.
After a sack of Smith set up a 4th and 19 with 1:50 to play, Joyce dialed up pass play to Dawson with the Braves laying back in dime coverage. Rushing only four, Smith had time, stepped up in the pocket and delivered a laser to Dawson for the first down.
On the edge of field goal range, it was another big pass play that put Jackson on top for good. A 23-yard floater to Sam Scott just inside the pylon for the winning score.
The Braves’ night wasn’t over yet, though. After a decent kickoff return gave Star Valley good field position, the Braves were able to move the ball to the Jackson 34-yard line. It was there the Broncs made their stand.
A pass incompletion off the hands JD Morris. Then a ball batted down at the line of scrimmage by Matt Carney (who was Jackson’s defensive player of the game) made it 3rd and 10.
Henry Berezay put on an outside bullrush to hit McClure’s arm as he threw a duck right to Dawson who dropped the wobbler. With 4th and 10 and the game on the line, a perfectly executed stunt by the defensive line had Lucas Gralund and Ryan Ransom applying all sorts of outside pressure, forcing McClure to step up in the pocket. When he did, Berezay was waiting for him for the sack. Game over.
Jackson improves to 4-1 on the season. Star Valley falls to 2-3.
The Broncs return home to host Green River (0-4) this Friday on KZ95.3 FM and KZ95.Live.