A ball-hogging offense, a stout defense and a key penalty, all in the second half, combined to allow the Jasper football Eagles to finish the regular season at 9-0 and win outright the Spring River Valley Conference title.
Jasper Coach Rich Adkins knew, when his team faced Diamond back in August at the preseason Jamboree at Jasper High School, that he had a good team, but it was hard to imagine what transpired over the next two months as the Eagles defeated traditional SRVC powers Lockwood, Greenfield, Pierce City, Miller, and fellow conference upstart Sarcoxie.
Jasper won all those games, including the instant-classic overtime win over Sarcoxie, and it culminatedFriday night in another hard-fought road win over Diamond, which only lost its last three games by a total of 13 points.
“I knew we had a chance to have a pretty good team (back in August), but I didn't know what would happen,” Adkins said. “Like I told the players, take care of the ball and some good things will happen.”
Jasper's offense scored early and often to go up 21-0 in the first quarter, 28-7 in the second quarter and 34-14 in the third quarter, but it wasn't until Quarterback Logan Johnston caught and secured the onside kick, after Diamond scored a touchdown with 1 minute left in the game, that the Eagles could finally breath.
“Diamond, they've got a lot of good athletes out there, a lot of guys who can make plays and they showed us the plays they can make,” Adkins said. “Going up and catching balls and getting passes, their quarterback was elusive, we couldn't seem to get ahold of him. They just made great plays and I was just proud of our kids for hanging in and sticking with it and continuing to fight.”
The Wildcats' pass-happy offense went to the air 55 times in the game, with Senior Quarterback Brodie Bien completing 25 of the passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns, including a spectacular one-handed, 25-yard touchdown grab by Receiver Darren Russow.
“We work on catching the football every day, every day,” said Diamond Head Coach Jimmy DuShane. “It's a tribute to these kids how hard they work for some of the catches they make. My receivers coach has established a rule, if you touch it and don't catch it, you're doing push up and the kids don't like to do push ups. We're learning to really concentrate and get in the ball and it's paying off now.”
Diamond's defense stepped up and didn't allow Jasper's offense to score after Johnston's 55-yard touchdown run with 10:55 left in the third quarter.
Diamond's offense had several chances to score after that, but could only cash in twice.
Page 2 of 2 - They had a 60-yard touchdown pass from Bien to Jordan Devine on third and 20 nullified by a penalty when Bien was ruled to have gone beyond the line of scrimmage.
Jasper also stopped Diamond on fourth down inside Jasper's five yard line twice in the game.
“We scored a touchdown the they took it away,” DuShane said. “It's a tie ballgame if that doesn't happen. They say that we made the mistake and we have to live with that. It was huge. We got down inside the three again and didn't score. Momentum swing from us to them back to us back to them, it was big.”
Jasper's Payton Smith went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season in this game. He needed 89 yards on the game to reach that milestone and got 144 yards on 23 carries. Jordan Rice and Logan Johnston also topped 100 yards on the ground for the game, with Rice gaining 117 yards on 13 carries and Johnston gaining 105 on 12 carries.
Jasper's offense totaled 366 yards on the ground and 381 yards for the game.
Diamond gained 364 yards through the air in the game and Zach Renfro led Diamond rushers with 81 yards on the ground on 16 carries. The Diamond offense totaled 451 yards on the game. Tanner Paradeis caught 10 balls for 150 yards to lead Diamond receivers.