Penalties prove costly for Roughriders
By Jeff Gates
For The Madison Press
Once in a blue moon.
With a portion of August’s second full moon peeking through the clouds, it’s as if the late astronaut Neil Armstrong was even sneaking a look at a football game for the ages from the sphere that he made so famous.
While there were great steps by West Jefferson High School playing catch-up admirably all game, there was one final giant leap for defending state champion Maria Stein Marion Local as the visiting Flyers won 44-37 Friday at Kile Field.
A touchdown by Flyer quarterback Adam Bertke with a minute remaining proved to be the difference in a game that saw West Jeff go toe-to-toe with the state title holder – coming back from as much as a 16-point deficit.
“We are a better team than we were four hours ago – we showed we belonged,” said West Jeff coach Shawn Buescher. “I’m very, very proud of the effort, but still not happy with the final result.”
The teams went into the final quarter tied at 30-30. West Jeff had a chance to get the ball from Marion Local, but one of a number of untimely offsides penalties by the Roughriders gave the Flyers one life too many as Bertke ran it in for a score.
He added his final one with one minute remaining, but West Jeff wasn’t done either. A Seth Casto to Ryan Love TD pulled the home team within seven, but an onside kick failed, leaving West Jeff just short.
“This team handles adversity very well,” Buescher said of the comebacks. “We know that during tough times, we are going to respond – they never give up.”
The game started slowly for the Roughriders as they fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone on their first possession of the ball game, staking the visitors to a 2-0 lead.
Then, Marion Local, on the legs of highly-touted quarterback Bertke, marched down the field. The Flyers scored as running back Jacy Goettemoeller took the ball in from a yard out after a 25-yard jaunt by Bertke took the ball to just outside of the goal line.
After a West Jefferson punt, Marion Local’s Jordan Rethman returned the ball to 17 yard line – giving the Flyers a short field.
The Roughriders defense – led by DJ McAninch, Corey Ginn and Brandon Doran – stiffened and held Marion Local to attempt a long fourth down try. The trio – and others – put several hard hits on the Flyers QB all night.
While Bertke’s pass was overthrown, West Jeff committed an obvious pass interference infraction, giving the Flyers new life. Bertke capitalized by hitting Goettemoeller with a 13-yard touchdown pass on the initial play of the second quarter, putting the visitors ahead 16-0.
West Jeff’s woes continued as a holding penalty negated a long run by Roughrider quarterback Casto. Those mistakes plagued the home team all night.
“More important than the two points early, we gave them good field position and the momentum,” Buescher said. “Over the course of four quarters, those add up.”
The Roughriders then put together a 12-play drive that appeared to be doomed for disaster. West Jeff fumbled away a fourth down play. Fortunately, McAninch recovered a Flyer fumble on the very next play.
West Jeff took advantage of their reprieve as Casto took it in from a yard out. A Jake Hatfield conversion pulled the home team within eight with a minute and a half remaining before the break.
The Flyers weren’t done for the half, however, as Bertke hit a wide-open Austin Albers for a 60-yard score.
Not to be outdone, the Roughriders started their drive with a 44-yard Casto to Love pass down the left sideline. Three plays later, Casto went in from four yards out. A Casto-to-Love connection cut the Marion Local lead to just eight at the break.
The Roughriders has an opportunity to even things up right out of the gate to start the second half, but another fumble put the ball back in the hands of the Flyers. They capitalized a few plays later as Bertke ran it in from 19 yards out to go up two scores again.
Like a good heavyweight boxer, West Jeff had a good right hook of its own as Casto connected with Love for a 21-yard score on fourth down.
The Roughriders were still playing from behind again, but soon a break went their way as Joey Lowe recovered a Flyers fumble.
On the very next play, it was Casto to Love again – this time for a 63-yard long pass. The Evan Golden kick finally put the Roughriders even at 30-30 after three quarters.
The Roughriders host cross-county foe London next Friday.