Football: West Jeff drills ’Burg
By Jeff Gates
For The Madison Press
Always rely on the Super Friends.
Thus was the credo of the group of Super Heroes who inhabited the Hall of Justice — with Superman, Batman and Aquaman and others all combining unique skills to reach a common goal.
The West Jefferson High School football team combined strong air and ground attacks, along with a stout defense, to upend visiting Mechanicsburg 40-20 in the opening contest for both teams. The Indians scored a pair of late touchdowns to make the game appear closer than it was.
The Roughriders started a flurry of scoring in the opening quarter that saw the two teams combine for three touchdowns in 40 seconds. After West Jeff quarterback Seth Casto got the Indians defense back on its heels with a series of precision passes, Roughrider running back Jake Hatfield powered through the line and scampered for the score.
Mechanicsburg countered on the very next play as Indians QB Colin Vernon connected with wide receiver Brandon Purk on a pass across the middle. Purk outran the West Jefferson defense for an 81-yard touchdown.
Undaunted, the home team made their next offensive play from scrimmage count – albeit of the unconventional variety.
First, West Jeff got the ball near midfield as the visiting Indians tried to capitalize on their soon-to-be short-lived momentum.
Then, Casto’s pass down the right sideline was tipped by West Jeff receiver Ryan Love, but landed in the waiting arms of Roughrider teammate Logan Stepp for what would eventually become a 56-yard trip to the end zone.
The ability to respond so quickly after giving up a long touchdown pass showed West Jefferson coach Shawn Buescher something about his team. So did the on-going task of utilizing as many players as possible in the run and the pass.
“We want to be balanced in our touches,” Buescher said. “That makes you harder to game plan for.”
West Jeff put the game away for the most part on the next drive as Casto ran in from seven yards out, on a four-play drive highlighted by a pounding 29-yard jaunt by Tyler Jones.
In the second quarter the Roughriders really started to flex its defensive muscles, led by Corey Ginn and DJ McAninch. Handley Sayre recovered a fumble by Mechanicsburg early in the second to give his squad solid field position.
Unfortunately, the football seemed to be the Roughriders’ kryptonite in the second as they fumbled the ball twice with good field position.
“We didn’t play at times with a great deal of concentration,” Buescher said. “I think we kind of lost focus.”
The Roughriders regained focus and ended the first half on a good note, however, as the home squad put together a time consuming 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a three-yard scoring run from Hatfield.
In the second half, West Jeff tacked on a pair of early touchdown runs – a 77 yarder by Casto and one from 16 yards out by Austin Johnson – before the Roughriders eased off the gas pedal.
With the first win under their belt, the Roughriders can now concentrate on next week’s home matchup against perennial title contender Marion Stein Local.
“It’s a big game because it’s the next one,” Buescher said. “It just happens to be against the returning state champion.”