SHORELINE — As if his usual contributions aren’t enough, Brett Jones does more than tackle anything that comes his way, stuff the occasional extra point and lead block for a steamrolling tailback twice his size.
The Jackson senior can see the future.
Jones was in a fortune-telling mood after the Wolfpack put the finishing touches on a 31-29 upset of Shorewood in a Western Conference 4A South Division football game Sept. 19 at Shoreline Stadium.
The narrow win improved Jackson to 2-0 in league play and 2-1 overall and confirmed what Jones has been thinking all season — teams need to take notice and beware of the much-improved Timberwolves.
“It shows all the people who thought we were going to be seventh, eighth in the league that no, we’re playoff contenders,” Jones said. “We’re going to make the playoffs this year.”
Jackson justified his prediction by out-maneuvering a Shorewood team that retained nine starters on offense and eight on defense from 2002 and was considered a shoo-in for the postseason by most coaches.
While the Thunderbirds fell to 0-2 and 1-2, the Timberwolves join Kamiak, Mariner and Meadowdale in a four-way tie for first in the division.
“We’ve told our kids all along that if they want to be considered one of the best teams, they’ve got to beat the best teams,” Wolfpack coach Joel Vincent said. “Tonight was step one.”
With their lineman-size ball carriers breaking off big gains on almost every touch, both teams surpassed 300 total yards and reached the end zone four times.
But Jackson’s defense was able to disrupt the Thunderbirds when it needed to, chipping in three interceptions, a fumble recovery and two huge stops after Shorewood touchdowns.
The first came with 32 seconds left in the second quarter when Jones swatted away an extra point attempt to give the Timberwolves a 21-13 halftime cushion.
Shorewood then had a chance to pull even after quarterback Sean Tracey hit Wade Gurnett for a 37-yard TD on the final play of the third quarter, but Richie Tri picked off Tracey’s 2-point conversion pass to protect Jackson’s 21-19 lead.
“The biggest play of the game was Brett blocking that PAT,” Vincent said. “That changed the whole scoring dynamic. It ends up being the difference in the game.”
With their slender lead intact, the Timberwolves tried to pull away on senior running back Johnie Kirton’s 41-yard touchdown run two minutes later. But the gap shrunk to 28-27 just over a minute later when Shorewood’s Seth Setterberg found a huge seam on the right and jetted 11 yards for a score.
Tyler Tonkin’s 47-yard reception across the middle on first down set up the touchdown and Tracey floated a fade pass to Gurnett for a successful 2-point conversion to make it a one-point game with nine minutes remaining.
Jackson ate up the next 4:20 driving to the Shorewood 17, but after allowing an 8-yard sack the Wolfpack settled for a 32-yard field goal by junior Nathin Bruns, who drilled all four of his PAT kicks.
The Thunderbirds went back to Setterberg almost exclusively on their final drive and the senior running back came through with 70 yards and four first downs on eight rushes, pushing Shorewood inside the Jackson 10.
On third-and-9 with less than a minute to go, Tracey took a short drop and aimed a pass toward Gurnett in the back of the end zone. But senior Andrew Williams slid in front of Gurnett for an easy snag and returned his interception to the 13-yard line to seal the victory.
“We knew that was it, do or die. We knew we had to make a big play,” Jones said of the interception. “Our whole emphasis is attitude and we had the right attitude at the end.”
Kirton led all rushers with 239 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. The 250-pound senior displayed his breakaway speed with a 76-yard touchdown sprint late in the first quarter and added a 10-yard TD run midway through the second quarter after Tri picked off an errant Tracey pass.
Jackson quarterback Chris Bowen completed three of his five passes for 52 yards, including a 13-yard play action touchdown strike to tight end Shawn Klaus at the 11:03 mark of the second quarter.
Tracey was 9-for-12 for 178 yards and two touchdowns and Setterberg ran for two touchdowns and 207 yards on 35 carries.
“Guys like Setterberg are … going to get their yards,” Vincent said. “The key is shutting the other guys down. I’m more concerned with giving up the long passes for the scores.”
Despite yielding some long-range plays and 376 total yards last week, Jones didn’t have to think twice about who deserves the bulk of the credit for Jackson’s red-hot start to the season.
“Our defense is the best thing about this team right now,” he said.