EVERETT — Conor Plaisance dropped back for the first time as Jackson’s varsity quarterback, looked left and uncorked a throw to his receiver.
Unfortunately it was about 10 feet over the intended target and went sailing into a surprised group of Timberwolves players on the sidelines.
He more than made up for it on the next play.
Shaking off his first toss, Plaisance hit sophomore wideout Keynan Foster on a deep post over the middle for a 71-yard touchdown one play later and the new-look Timberwolves were off and running en route to a 41-26 win over Monroe in a Wesco crossover showdown at Everett Memorial Stadium Friday night.
“That’s all nerves right there,” Plaisance said of his inaugural throw as Jackson quarterback. “After the first couple of snaps I felt more comfortable.”
Plaisance, who is taking over for longtime Jackson signal-caller Sam Brown, finished the game 19-for-34 for 274 yards and five touchdowns. Not a bad debut for a player that up until this year was known more for his pass catching than pass throwing.
“I thought he played well but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jackson head coach Joel Vincent. “I think he’ll prove he’s even better than that.”
It wasn’t all roses for Plaisance, who lost a fumble and threw two interceptions at the beginning of the second half to let Monroe back in the game. The Bearcats scored on back-to-back possessions after the interceptions to draw to within 21-20 and bring the large Monroe student section into play.
“It’s hard when you have a lot of young players to convine them in the locker room that when you have a 21-6 lead the other team is not going away,” Vincent said. “I tried my best, but I think they believe me know.”
As he did earlier in the game, Plaisance answered again. On the ensuing possession, Plaisance threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Baumgartner and, after Jackson’s Trey Robinson sliced into the backfield to stuff Monroe on a fourth-down try on its ensuing possession, Plaisance hit Foster again for an 18-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-20. Plaisance said the support he received from his teammates was key to his turnaround.
“They were all like you gotta brush it off,” said Plaisance, who also had to play the game with an bum ankle after turning it early in the first quarter. “They were like ‘You need to lead the offense.’”
Vincent said he’d give his quarterback a B or B- after his first performance and was proud of how he dug deep and showed his cool under fire. “He showed his composure and kept his wits about him,” Vincent said. “He stayed focused on what we were telling him to do. He also tweaked an ankle early on so that limited his mobility and he showed some grit and some toughness tonight too.”
Monroe refused to go away, though, as Price hit fellow quarterback Hunter Bingham for an 18-yard touchdown pass to complete a five-play, 80-yard drive that had Price go 3-for-3 for 67 yards.
Up by just a touchdown with more than seven minutes to go, Jackson turned to its defense and a different quarterback to secure the win. With Monroe on Jackson’s side of the field, Timberwolves defensive back John-Robert Woolley made a diving interception of a Monroe pass to give Jackson the ball back and momentum.
“That was amazing,” Vincent said. “I think he was horizontal to the ground when he caught it. For his first start I’m thrilled for him.”
Jackson then turned to senior Larry Baker-Bruce, who took over for Plaisance at quarterback. Playing more of a Wildcat-style quarterback, Baker-Bruce drove Jackson down the field, eating up nearly the entire clock and finishing the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach. Baker-Bruce had 46 yards rushing and a 21-yard completion to Nick White on the drive.
“I’m really proud of our offensive line and how they manned up in that last four minutes to grind the clock out,” Vincent said. “They really had to dig deep and get that done for us.”
Scoring on three of its first four possessions, Jackson jumped out to an early 21-0 lead on the shocked Bearcats, who put a halt to the rout when Moore scored from 2 yards out to help keep it close going into halftime and set up their second-half surge.
For Monroe, running back Moore scored a pair of touchdowns and quarterback Mitchell Price threw two scores as well, including one to fellow quarterback Hunter Bingham. Both Price and Bingham traded off behind center throughout the game. On defense, senior Mitchell Johnson recovered a fumble and had a big sack for Monroe.
At Everett Memorial Stadium
J—Keynan 71 pass from Plaisance (kick failed)
J—Baumgartner 27 pass from Plaisance (Baker-Bruce run)
J—Soderqvist 13 pass from Plaisance (Zeng kick)
M—Moore 2 run (kick failed)
M—Moore 2 run (Kennedy pass from Bingham)
M—Dimaggio 49 pass from Price (Kick failed)
J—Baumgartner 51 pass from Plaisance (kick failed)
J—Foster 10 pass from Plaisance (Zeng kick)
M—Bingham pass from Price (kick failed)
J—Baker-Bruce 2 run (Zeng kick)
Records—Monroe 0-1 overall. Jackson 1-0.