EVERETT — If someone would have told Jackson High School football coach Joel Vincent that his high-powered offense would be held scoreless in the second half of Friday’s 4A Wesco South game against Kamiak and his team would still win, there is no way he would have believed them.
But that’s what happened. The Timberwolves held on to beat the Knights 21-20 and improved to 2-0 in the conference, tied at the top of the standings with Mariner, which beat Lynnwood 49-23 Friday night.
“We’ve been putting up points like crazy this year,” Vincent said. “No, if someone would have told me that we wouldn’t score in the second half and win, no I wouldn’t have believed you.”
The game ended in bizarre fashion. With the Knights trailing 21-20 and driving, they converted on a fourth-and-six from the Jackson 39-yard line to get a new set of downs when quarterback Brett Ludeman found Mason Chalfant for a 7-yard gain. Ludeman quickly got his team to the line of scrimmage and killed the clock with a spike. With 29 seconds left, the Knights handed the ball to running back Austin Hall, who gained a modest 2 yards. Then on third down, Ludeman went to kill the clock again, but fumbled the ball. He recovered, but the Knights were forced to use a timeout.
Then the confusion began.
The play began with just over 20 seconds left in the game, but by the time the Knights called timeout the clock showed just three seconds. No one ever got an explanation of what happened, but the officials eventually settled on 13 seconds on the game clock.
“Crazy in one word, I would use chaotic,” Vincent said of the game’s finish. “I still don’t know quite what happened there, or why the clock wouldn’t wind or why they decided to put whatever time they did. I’m going to have to go watch the film.”
Luckily for Vincent and the Timberwolves, it didn’t affect the outcome. Ludeman’s pass on fourth-and 11 from the Jackson 33-yard line sailed over Meshesha’s head and Jackson held on for the win.
“We were happy with what we were doing, we just ran out of time,” Kamiak coach Dan Mack said.
The Timberwolves built a 21-7 halftime lead thanks to quarterback Conor Plaisance and his favorite target for the night, Trey Robinson. Plaisance completed 10 of 13 passes in the first half for 168 yards and two scores. Both touchdowns were to Robinson, who finished the first half with three catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s definitely our number-one receiver and always the one I’m looking for,” Plaisance said of Robinson. “He always finds a way to get open.”
But for the first time this season, the Knights found a way to slow down the Timberwolves’ passing attack in the second half. Plaisance completed just 5 of his 11 throws in the second half for 53 yards and an interception. He finished the game 15-for-24 for 221 yards.
“I thought our defense did a good job,” Mack said. “We did a good job of stepping up in the second half.”
While the Knights’ defense was slowing down the Timberwolves’ passing game, the Timberwolves’ defense was having trouble stopping the Knights’ rushing attack — Hall. Hall was a workhorse, carrying the ball 41 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns, both TDs coming in the second half.
“He’s an outstanding young man, great football player, huge heart and wants the ball,” Mack said. “He plays defense for us as well. He’s a strong safety. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
Vincent said stopping the run has to be a point of emphasis for the Timberwolves moving forward.
“We’ve got to get a lot better defensively as this year unfolds,” Vincent said. “We’ve got to get better at defending the run, especially next week when we’ve got Mariner.”
Hall led the Knights on a nine-play drive that covered 69 yards to open the second half, capping off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 21-14 after the Nick Menghini extra-point.
On the ensuing Jackson drive, the Timberwolves picked up where they left off on offense in the first half, marching the ball down the field and threatening to go up by two scores again. But on a third-and-15 play from the 25-yard line, Plaisance was picked off by Gabe Meshesha. The interception seemed to shift the momentum in favor of the Knights for good.
After Kamiak’s Brett Ludeman fumbled deep in the Knights’ territory, the Kamiak defense stopped the Timberwolves on three straight plays and Jackson’s Michael Zeng missed a 33-yard field goal.
The Knights took advantage on the next possession, driving 80 yards in 19 plays, again capped off by a 5-yard Hall touchdown run. Kamiak converted on a fourth-and-four during the possession and was also saved by a pass interference call on a fourth-and-12 play.
But the Knights’ jubilation was short lived. Menghini missed the extra-point that would have tied the game and Kamiak was never able to score again.
The win for Jackson sets up a showdown of the final unbeatens in the Wesco South next Friday when the Timberwolves face Mariner. Having already played Edmonds-Woodway and Kamiak, a win against the Marauders would put the Timberwolves in the driver’s seat for a Wesco South championship, but Vincent doesn’t see it that way.
“You could look at it that way, but I choose not to,” Vincent said. “Cascade is improved and I don’t think Lynnwood is a slouch either. That’s why we tee it up and go play them every week. Mariner is a huge game. That’s all I’m going to worry about and then I will focus on Cascade and then Lynnwood. If we were able to win next week and get better, then yeah, obviously I really like our chances. But we’ve got a big one first we’ve got to go play.”
Kamiak on the other hand will have to rebound from a disappointing loss, but the Knights proved to themselves that they can play with anyone in the league.
“A play here and there and we feel like we are right there,” Mack said. “We feel like we can compete with anybody.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.