The Jefferson Blue Jays fell behind early in their district quarterfinal game at St. Pius on Friday. That deficit proved too large to overcome as the team missed opportunities throughout the game to capitalize, and saw their season come to an end with a 29-16 loss to the Lancers. The Jays ended the season with a 4-6 record.
It was a game that saw the Blue Jays never establish a rhythm to the game. Some of that was definitely out of their hands, but some was certainly in their control. “Yeah, we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” quarterback Drew Breeze mentioned after the game. “We kept making dumb mistakes. But going towards the end of the game, we regrouped and finished strong.”
The start of the contest featured a good stand by the Jefferson defense, forcing a St. Pius punt. Unfortunately, the punt was downed at the Jefferson one yard line. “We took a chance and had a pass play called to get it out of the endzone,” head coach Alex Rouggly explained. “Unfortunately Drew got his feet tangled up with one of our linemen, and that led to a Pius safety. The play was there with Colby Ott one-on-one with the corner, which is a matchup we love, on a hitch concept. But like they say, this is a game of inches at times.”
St. Pius then had a good return with great field position and capitalized with a first quarter TD. The Blue Jays found themselves down 9-0 before really getting their hands on the ball. But Jefferson responded with what would be their best drive of the night. The drive ate up a lot of the first quarter clock, but ultimately, it ended in a fumble on the one yard line as the Jays were about to take it in for a touchdown.
St. Pius scored again midway through the second quarter, and it looked as if the teams would go into halftime with the Lancers on top 15-0. But St. Pius had one last shot before the half. “As time expired, their wide receiver made an acrobatic catch for the score,” Rouggly commented. “We knew where they were going to go with the ball, and had safety help with our corner over the receiver. Will Schnitzler played the ball about as good as you can, batted it down, but as the ball was going down, the receiver was able to corral it in as he fell to the ground for a TD.”
It was the type of score that would just deflate a team, and Jefferson’s psyche was pretty fragile anyway. Blue Jay Will Breeze was injured at the 9:13 mark of the second quarter. He lay motionless on the field for quite some time and was taken to the hospital via an ambulance. It was a scary moment and stopped the game for about 20 minutes. Coach Rouggly was happy to provide an update later. “We would like to thank all of our community members for their thoughts and prayers for Will. He sustained a neck/head injury on Friday night, and we are excited to say that all tests came back great. He is back to himself at home with his family and doing just fine.”
The two teams played a scoreless third quarter, and then the Jays came alive a bit in the fourth. “We started finding some things offensively in the fourth quarter,” Rouggly mentioned. Ott had a 45 yard TD run with Dylan Schnitzler punching in the two point conversion. The Lancers then answered with an 11 play, 68 yard drive that was capped off with a quarterback sneak into the endzone. The last score was when Drew Breeze was able to find Dylan Schnitzler for a 13 yard TD pass with 2:49 to go to get it down to a 13 point game. But after an unsuccessful onside kick attempt, the Lancers ran out the clock.
A look at the stats showed that the Blue Jays were playing catch up. They rushed the ball 29 times for 143 yards, and passed it 25 times for 152 yards. The team probably put it in the air a little more than they wanted, but they did find some success there. Dylan Schnitzler carried six times for 41 yards. Dylan Duncan gained 37 yards on eight carries, and Ott led the team with seven carries for 71 yards. Drew Breeze was 15 of 23 passing for 141 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Three players caught five passes each. Ott (50 yards), Dylan Schnitzler (50 yards), and Will Schnitzler (41) hauled in five passes each, while Drew Breeze caught one pass for 11 yards.
“It was a tough game, and definitely wasn’t the way we wanted the season to end,” Ott confessed. “But it’s always great to put on that uniform and go out under the lights with my brothers. It was still a great experience to be a part of this team and have the opportunity to play with the seniors for three of their four years.”
Dawson Jakoubek had his usual stellar game on defense, collecting ten tackles and four assists. He said the Blue Jays didn’t see anything they didn’t expect from the Lancers. “We were prepared for it,” he said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot in big time moments. Their athletes made big plays whenever they needed to.” Justin Mitchell chipped in with six tackles and two assists, while Ott joined in on five tackles. Dylan Schnitzler had four tackles and an assist, while Mason Campbell contributed three tackles and a sack.
Despite the loss and a below .500 season mark, Rouggly saw a lot of good things with this team. “We took great strides in growth this season, both as people, and as a team,” he mentioned. “If you watched us week one through week ten, you could see the positive strides that our team has made. We have to continue to grow throughout the offseason, both mentally and physically. We had nine penalties for 100 yards on Friday. Those have plagued us all season.”
Rouggly’s final thoughts revolved around the personalities of his players. “This is such a great group of kids,” he explained. “With so many kids returning for next season, we know that the expectations should and will rise. This off-season in the weight-room, while also having our kids compete in other sports, is so very important. Our goal is for our kids to participate in as many sports as possible, so that they are competing all year. We wish our seniors, Brandon Perry, Dylan Duncan, Connor Surratt, and Klarcke Watz nothing but the best. They are all such great kids who have been integral parts in us building this program into one of the best in Jefferson County these past five years.”