Two really good football teams showed why they were both unbeaten Friday night on the gridiron at Jasper and it took more than the normal 48 minutes of football to decide who would emerge the winner.
The Jasper Eagles and Sarcoxie Bears were 4-0, sitting atop the Spring River Valley Conference at the beginning of Friday's football game, and they were tied 14-14 at the end of regulation.
It took a sudden dash of 25 yards by Jasper's Payton Smith and a stand on fourth and two by Jasper's defense in the first overtime to decide the winner as the Eagles took the contest 22-14 to go to 5-0 and stand alone atop the conference.
“I told the kids afterward I didn't know what to say, I haven't been a part of anything like that in a long time,” an elated Jasper Head Coach Rich Adkins said. “It was a blast. We challenged our kids at half time to come out and play harder and get more physical. We told them that was how it going to be all week, and I think they came out here there and met the challenge in the second half. I'm just so proud of our kids.”
It literally was a tale of two halfs in this football game, with Sarcoxie dominating the first half and taking a 14-0 lead with less than a minute before the break, then Jasper taking over and tying the game with less than four minutes left in the contest.
The two defenses were huge in the game coming up with timely stops and turnovers to change the momentum.
“I think we came out and played well in the first half,” said Sarcoxie Head Coach Luke Rader. “We had some penalties that hurt us and some things like that, but I thought we were ready to play. The kids have been focused, they've worked extremely hard on defense and when you've got a group that does that, they're going to make some plays.”
Sarcoxie had more yardage than Jasper. All the yards for both teams were gained on the ground as neither team could get the passing game going.
Sarcoxie had 375 total yards to 235 for Jasper.
Payton Smith was the sparkplug for the Eagles, gaining 137 yards on 12 carries, including an 80-yard run that got the Eagles out from under the shadow of their own goal post after Jasper's defense recovered a Sarcoxie fumble on Jasper's 11.
The Eagles Quarterback, Logan Johnston had 57 yards on 10 carries and scored both of Jasper's touchdowns and the two-point conversion that tied it with 3:52 left in the game.
Payton Smith scored the go-ahead touchdown and the two-point conversion in the first overtime on a 25-yard burst over right end.
Page 2 of 2 - “First half, they just physically beat us up up front,” the Eagles' Adkins said. “Same thing when we had the ball, we had trouble moving it the whole time, so they really just physically beat us up and we answered the bell in the second half. In the first half we didn't have very many offensive plays, they controlled the clock, they controlled the game, so I'm just so happy with the fight in our kids tonight.”
The Bears scored first with less than four minutes gone in the first quarter when Gavin Curry broke open a 13-yard run to the end zone. Marcos Lopez hit the kick to put the Bears up 7-0.
With the clock winding down until the half, Sarcoxie drove the length of the field and Conor Jones scored on a 1-yard plunge with less than a minute left before the break. Lopez' second kick sent the Bears to the locker room with a 14-0 lead.
“I said last week that we were almost mirror images,” said the Bears' Rader. “I think they've got kind of the same thing we do, that they've got a group of kids that work hard and they believe in each other, and when you have that, you've got a team that's never going to give up. We saw two teams that have that same attitude and it's just a shame that one of them has to lose.”
Jasper travels to Pleasant Hope next week while Sarcoxie hosts Greenfield.