EVERETT — It was a night of penalties, missed extra points and other miscues for the Jackson football team, and it was enough to leave head coach Joel Vincent shaking his head with dismay.
“We were sloppy,” he said, moments before heading to the locker room to repeat the same message to his team.
But under the heading of good news, the Timberwolves broke open a close game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to defeat pesky Cascade 39-20 on a cool and, later on, damp Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The outcome, mistake-filled though it was, allowed Jackson to improve to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the Western Conference 4A South. The Timberwolves are alone atop the league standings, and can clinch the championship next week by beating Lynnwood.
Vincent is happy about that much, but against Cascade “I thought we blew too many assignments,” he said. “We should be better than this, so in that respect I’m a little disappointed.
“But one thing has rung true for us the whole year, and that’s our kids’ effort. They might be committing penalties or blowing assignments, but they’re going hard. We just have to clean up the mental mistakes. So I’m going to be busy (in the coming days), taking a lot of notes on a lot of film for our meetings to say, ‘Hey, this is stuff we can’t do.’”
The T-wolves scored touchdowns on three of their five first-half possessions (alas, they missed all three extra points), and at times they gouged the Cascade defense for big chunks of yardage. But the Bruins never backed down, and when place-kicker Joey Birnbaum drilled a 35-yard field goal in the late seconds of the second quarter Cascade had pulled within 18-10 at halftime.
The Bruins then opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 65-yard scoring march, with quarterback Ryan Lukas passing 10 yards to tight end Steven Gallardo for the TD. The extra point drew Cascade within 18-17.
Jackson countered with a nine-play, 60-yard TD drive of its own, with quarterback Connor Plaisance finding wide receiver Trey Robinson on a slant route for a leaping 14-yard catch at the goal line. The T-wolves then missed their fourth PAT.
Another 35-yard field goal by Birnbaum trimmed Cascade’s deficit to 24-20, but Jackson answered with maybe the biggest play of the game. On the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, Plaisance threw his second TD pass in six minutes, this time finding Keynan Foster near the left sideline. Foster ran a footrace down the sideline, then dragged a defender the final 5 yards to the end zone.
When the T-wolves finally converted a PAT — Larry Baker-Bruce ran the ball for two points — Jackson had a 32-20 cushion.
After getting the ball back on downs, Jackson got an 8-yard scoring run from Baker-Bruce with 2:19 to play in the fourth quarter to break the game open.
Though disappointed with the outcome, first-year Cascade coach Joe Cronin was pleased with his team’s effort. After giving up two early and relatively easy touchdowns, the Bruins regrouped and battled better the rest of the way.
In the locker room afterward, “I gave a speech about attitude, effort and accountability,” Cronin said. “About playing for four quarters. And I thought we played for four quarters tonight.
“We had a shot at the end,” he added. “The final score was 39-20, but (earlier) it was 24-20 and we were battling. We made a few mistakes, but I couldn’t be prouder of these guys for how they played.”
Jackson totaled 407 yards of offense, with Baker-Bruce carrying 24 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and Plaisance completing 14 of 18 passes for 199 yards and two TDs (he also had five carries for 38 yards).
Cascade managed just 91 rushing yards, but Lukas was 20-for-30 for 149 yards with two TDs and one interception. He completed his first nine passes of the second half for 72 yards and a touchdown.
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Cascade 0 10 7 3 — 20
Jackson 6 12 6 15 — 39
J—Baker-Bruce 7 run (kick failed)
J—Robinson 4 run (pass failed)
C—Elliott 4 pass from Lukas (Birnbaum kick)
J—Robinson 12 run (run failed)
C—Birnbaum 35 FG
C—Gallardo 10 pass from Lukas (Birnbaum kick)
J—Robinson 14 pass from Plaisance (kick blocked)
C—Birnbaum 35 FG
J—Foster 59 pass from Plaisance (Baker-Bruce run)
J—Baker-Bruce 8 run (Zeng kick)