It was an entertaining back-and-forth contest all night, but the West Jefferson Roughriders football team came up a handful of yards short in a 49-42 loss at the hands of visiting Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy Saturday in the opening round of the Division V Playoffs.
The teams combined for five scoring plays of 50 yards or more to add to the electricity of the post-season atmosphere. Scores came via the pass, run, kick off return and punt return.
It was a back-and-forth battle throughout, for as soon as one team seemed to be in control, the other squad fought back to continue to put the final outcome in doubt.
The Roughriders were led by the punishing running of Hunter Braithwaite who earned four rushing touchdowns on the night. He was joined in a balanced West Jeff offense by the consistent running style of Gabe Jones and the steady passing of Tyler Buescher.
The offense-heavy game started out ironically with some outstanding plays on defense. Hills Christian’s first drive was thwarted by an interception by WJ’s Justin Williams. Unfortunately, the Roughriders would give it back just a play later with a fumble.
The Eagles second possession did not go well as two straight motion penalties and a sack by Roughrider Josh Hahn gave the ball pack to the home team.
West Jeff was able to get on the board first as Braithwaite tallied his first of a quartet of TDs on the night. The drive was highlighted by a 35 yard run by Jones, which was made possible by a bone-crushing block delivered by QB Buescher.
The Roughriders went up by 14 just over a minute later as Jones returned a punt 75 yards for a score as the first big play on the evening.
It appeared as though the Roughriders would raise the score even higher as West Jeff’s Tyler Oberle intercepted a pass from Hill Christian’s QB Cole Fisher. They were unable to capitalize, however, as Eagle defensive back Garrett Jostworth quickly returned the favor with an interception of his own.
The Eagles took advantage of the opportunity by mounting a 10-play drive that culminated in a six yard TD pass from Fisher to Julian Herman.
Hills Christian tied it at 14-14 early in the second quarter as Jostworth was on the receiving end of a 25 yard Fisher scoring pass.
The defenses battled back and forth most of the second stand until Braithwaite’s second touchdown of the first half gave the home team a seven point lead going into the break.
As the third quarter started, West Jeff stayed with their solid ground game. Facing a fourth and short from midfield, the Roughriders gambled. It paid off as Braithwaite barreled through the middle of the line and scampered straight down field for 57 yards to stake the home squad to another two score advantage.
Things looked even brighter for the Roughriders as the Eagles were stopped on a fourth and short of their own.
Forced to punt, the visitors were on the move again — this time QB Fisher hooking up with DJ Ames for a 58 yard TD.
Like a heavyweight boxing match the Roughriders swung back. Jabbing with Jones and counter punching with Braithwaite, West Jeff traveled 70 yards on the ground, with the latter reaching the end zone for his final time on the evening.
West Jeff’s joy was short lived as Eagle Herman returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, once again cutting in half the Roughriders two TD lead.
“We gave up a lot of big plays,” said WJ coach Shawn Buescher. “Obviously it was a big play offense with many talented players.”
But, as the coach knew, his team had the big play potential as well. This was no more apparent than in the first minute of the final quarter as Jones took a screen pass from QB Buescher and raced 63 yards down the right sideline to put the home team ahead by 14 once again.
That is when the Hills Christian offense took over. In less than an eight minute span, the Eagles scored three touchdowns to take the lead. A last minute potentially-tying drive by the Roughriders came up just a few yards short.
“We need to look at the big picture — what we became from what others thought we could do.” Coach Buescher told his team after the game. “I’m proud of the way we fought tonight and throughout the season.”