West Jefferson stung by Hornets 36-16
By Jeff Gates
For The Madison Press
PATASKALA — The sting of defeat.
When opportunity knocks you better answer the door.
More importantly, you better hope someone hasn’t changed the locks.
Coming into the important match-up between West Jefferson High School and Licking Heights High School, both squads knew that a victory would mean not only a probable Mid-State League Cardinal Division championship, but the triumphant team would likely punch its ticket to the postseason.
In a game that got sloppier along the way, it became apparent that the team that made the fewest mistakes would come away with the win.
In the end, it was the home Hornets that came out on top, putting together four short touchdown drives in the second half — three off of West Jefferson turnovers — as the Roughriders lost 36-16 on the road Friday. It is the first time in the seven years that West Jeff has been a part of the Mid-State League that Licking Heights has defeated the Roughriders on the gridiron.
“We talked about two areas coming in — turnovers and special teams,” said West Jeff coach Shawn Buescher. “And we lost both of those tonight.”
It was a combination of second half fumbles and penalties that proved to be West Jefferson’s downfall.
The Hornets got on the board first as running back Ron Carruthers-Kimball scampered down the left sideline on just the game’s third play for a 44-yard touchdown run.
The Roughriders answered on their initial possession as West Jeff put together a seven-play, 59-yard drive — highlighted with three 15-plus yard passes by quarterback Seth Casto. West Jeff got into the end zone on their only running play of the drive — a two-yard push ahead by Jake Hatfield.
After those two drives it appeared as though the game was going to be a shootout.
The only other scoring either team could muster in the first half was a 37-yard field goal by West Jefferson’s kicker Evan Golden.
But then several things happened the remainder of the first two quarters that caused the scoring to remain down.
A combination of errant snaps and penalties destroyed any opportunity for either team to sustain a drive.
West Jefferson had the best opportunities.
For example, the Roughriders had first and 10 at the five yard line. A bad snap, a sack and a holding penalty later, West Jeff found itself with third and goal from the 46. The Roughriders completed a long pass to Ryan Love that put them in position for Golden’s field goal, but unfortunately, that drive proved to be a bad omen.
“We left behind two scoring opportunities in the first half that killed us,” Buescher said.
Holding a slim 10-7 lead at the half, West Jeff got the ball to start the third.
To the Hornets’ credit, they came out in the second half with a changed defensive plan. While the middle of the zone was open for Casto the first two quarters, the Roughriders had to try something different after the break.
“They changed and started playing two high safeties,” Buescher said — alluding to the fact that Licking Heights was begging West Jeff to try to gain yards on the ground. “We have to be able to run the rock.”
A fumble early on gave the Hornets a short field, and the lead for good at 14-10.
West Jeff scored on a Casto to Logan Stepp pass with eight minutes remaining in the game to cut it to 21-16.
The Hornets converted a couple more turnovers to reach the final score.
West Jeff travels to Liberty Union next Friday, hoping to keep its slim playoff hopes alive.