It didn’t have the immediate desperation of the previous week, when Blue Springs South pulled out a double-overtime win with a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10.
But make no mistake, Friday’s game at Stewart Memorial Stadium had an air of improbability wafting about before the Jaguars rallied visiting Staley and ultimately hung on for a 23-20 win.
South, which improved to 3-1 with the suburban non-league, entered the fourth quarter staring at a 13-3 deficit after Staley’s Jordan Robben got around left end on a slick quarterback keeper and sped 51 yards for a touchdown to finish the third. Faizol Bouchard’s extra point was blocked, leaving the margin at 10 points.
At that point, the Jaguar offense had struggled to achieve so much as a first down – just five of those compared to seven punts. In the first half they suffered five sacks and totaled just 25 yards of offense.
But starting from its own 13, South switched to a hurry-up mode and began to click. Colton Pogue completed five passes for first downs – the first two to Brandin Dandridge followed by Briley Moore-McKinney, Kendall Blanton and D.J. Brownlee – and three backs carried the ball on a 12-play drive capped by Emery Ester’s 4-yard burst with 8:06 remaining.
South coach Greg Oder wasn’t sure if the offensive shift fully accounted for his team’s reversal in fortune, but certainly was the starting point.
“It felt like the hurry-up sparked us and gave the kids a little more energy,” he said. “I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but that’s when it happened.
Next, a defense that save for two plays was stout all night produced a three-and-out, and the Jaguars took over at their own 44. Four plays later Pogue scrambled up the middle, bounced left and picked up a block on his way to a 45-yard go-ahead touchdown with 4:59 left. Pogue added the first of two PAT kicks to make it 16-13.
“The line gave great protection; I’ll thank ’em all day,” said Pogue, who completed 16 of 23 for 134 passes. “Big block by Briley there to spring things open.”
After Pogue and Cameron Miller were sacked a combined five times in the first half, the Jaguars didn’t yield a sack in the second half.
“It wasn’t a huge emphasis,” Pogue said of the pass protection. “We trust in them, and as you can see, they’re capable of doing it.”
Staley (2-2) got one first down and appeared to have another on Robben’s keeper on third-and-4 from the South 49. Robben fumbled the ball as he went down and South, but one official, thinking he was down and perhaps not seeing the ball come loose, blew the play dead.
After conferring, the officials had the down replayed. South stuffed Bouchard for a yard, and Robben’s fourth-down pass to Ryan Pierce was caught but out of bounds.
“Inadvertent whistle,” Staley coach Fred Bouchard said when asked what explanation he received for that play. “I thought it was down because one of them was putting it down. It was the correct call to move it back.”
Taking over with 2:55 left, South appeared the put the game on ice when Ester (16 carries, 89 yards) muscled through a couple tackles and took for a 52-yard touchdown.
Faizol Bouchard returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the 33 to give Staley a last gasp, and Robben (26 carries, 122 yards) scored from 6 yards out with 49 seconds remaining, but South recovered the onside kick.
The second half was an offensive eruption compared to the first half, when the teams combined for 80 yards of offense and 11 punts, with each initial first down coming due to penalty.
Brownlee’s first-quarter interception gave South a possession at Staley’s 37, but on first-and-goal a fumbled reception went out of the end zone for a touchback to Staley.
South did convert after a muffed punt catch by the Falcons gave the Jaguars possession at the 17. With Pogue (also the team’s place kicker) sitting out the second quarter for precautionary reasons on a possible head injury, Savion Cauveren stepped in and booted a 33-yard field goal at the 7:11 mark, the only score of the first half.
Staley erased that deficit three plays into the second half, as Robben rolled left and lofted a pass to Faizol Bouchard, who scampered 77 yards up the sideline for a touchdown.
Even with that play, South yielded just 251 yards of offense, as Kahluna and Faizol Bouchard managed just 15 yards rushing and Robben was just 6-of-25 passing.
“The kids played well,” Oder said of his defense. “They were flying around and staying with it.”