The Cascade Champi-ons won their third game in a row after a 0 – 4 start and a 0 – 10 2017 campaign at the expense of the Grundy County Yellow Jackets 55 – 35. The loss was the sixth in a row for the Jackets as their 2018 slate drops to 1 – 6. The Jackets have three games remaining with all three being against Region 4 – 3A foes. Two of the three games are at home on Crisp Field. The first of these is most likely the toughest with Region 4 – 3A leader, the Upperman Bees. The Bees are 7 – 0 on the season and they are 3 – 0 in region play. The game is tomorrow night (Friday) on Crisp Field starting at 7 p.m.
Last Friday night’s Homecoming game got off to an up and down start. After Cascade recovered an onside kick to begin the game, the Jacket defense turned in a huge play to get the homecoming crowd on their feet with a defensive touchdown. Senior Ethan Nunley scooped an errant option pitch and returned it 82 yards to pay dirt. Senior Jaden Nance add-ed the PAT kick and the Jackets led 7 – 0 with 9:13 left in the opening stanza.
The red hot Champions kept their poise and an-swered on a four-play drive culminated by Wen-del Singleton’s 50-yard touchdown jaunt. The kick failed and the Jackets led 7 – 6. The Jackets moved the ball back deep into Champion territory on a 51-yard keeper by QB Ethan Nunley down to the Champion 11-yard line. However, the Cascade de-fense stiffened and a 22-yard field goal attempt by Nance was no good.
The Champions went 80 yards in 13 plays to take the lead for good. The PAT kick made the score 13 – 7 with 10:42 left in the sec-ond quarter. The Champi-ons then were successful on recovering another on-side kick attempt at the Jacket 46. Six plays later the Champions extended their lead to 20 – 7 with 6:48 to go before intermis-sion. The Champions add-ed one more score before the half and took a 27 – 7 lead to the locker room.
The second half started much the way the first half ended with the Champions going 68 yards in five plays to take a 34 – 7 lead.
That’s when the Jacket offense, which had only scored once in the last three and half games, came to life. The Jackets went 64 yards in nine plays and finally broke their scoring drought, when Ethan Nunley hit senior wideout Ethan Chouinard with a three-yard scoring strike on fourth down. Jaden Ruehling hit Evan Nunley for the two-point conversion and the Jackets pulled within 34 – 15.
The inspired Jacket defense gave the ball back to the confident offense when junior safety Nathan Coffelt picked off a Cas-cade pass and ran it back 15 yards to the Champion 24-yard line. Four plays later, Ethan Nunley sprint-ed up the middle and into the end zone to cut the Cascade lead to 34 – 21. The two point pass failed.
Cascade countered with a touchdown and PAT to make the game 41 – 21 with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Jackets continued to move the ball going 57 yards in seven plays. Ethan Nunley hit sophomore re-ceiver Jordan Hackworth slanting across the middle, who turned it up and into the end zone from 21 yards out. The two-point try failed and with 10:22 left in the game, Cascade led 41 – 27.
Cascade added a one-yard run and a 38-yard in-terception return to build the lead back to 55 – 27. However, as they have done all year, the Jackets fought to the finish and added one more score on sophomore QB Jaden Ruehling’s nine-yard run. Ethan Nunley’s two-point run made the final score 55 – 35.
“The positive points to this game are that we final-ly got our offense to score some points. We’ve had trouble scoring points in the last few games,” said Head Coach Tracy Hay-worth. “We scored 35 points in various ways. We were able to rush for touchdowns and throw for some.
“We were able to fix some issues we were hav-ing on offense. I was happy with the decisions my quarterback was making and our offensive line was blocking better.
“Our defense gave up way more points than we should have. It’s hard to beat a team when you give up 55 points. That is some-thing that can be rectified and fixed. It was more of technical problems and that is something that is go-ing to come with time with these young guys,” contin-ued Hayworth.
The Jackets were led offensively by Ethan Nun-ley with 324 all-purpose yards. He ran and passed for 204 yards and rushed 14 times for 120 yards. He completed 9-15 with one interception for 85 yards. Evan Nunley had 19 yards on five carries. Coffelt had three catches for 54 yards, while Hackworth hauled in two receptions for 26 yards.
Defensively, Ethan Nunley had eight tackles and two assist. Evan Nun-ley had seven tackles and three assist. Coffelt had seven tackles with two as-sist, and Hackworth with four tackles.
The Jackets needed the offense to come alive. Even though it was a little too late, the Jackets con-tinued to show how hard they will compete.
“Iron sharpens iron and we’ve played some very good opponents and so these guys aren’t going to be afraid in the years to come. I’ll be able to play them as sophomores and get productivity out of them instead of waiting un-til their junior year. The bright light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that my guys are getting some valuable experience,” stat-ed Hayworth.
Looking ahead, Hay-worth explained, “We have Upperman coming up next and they are a well-coached team. They are probably one of the best coached teams that we’ve played thus far. They have great technique, they see things on the field and they execute well.
“Their offense likes to trap and pull linemen and are very athletic. They can block and can block up field. Their receivers can catch and run good disci-plined routes. Their quar-terback sees the field well and throws the ball well. Their running backs are patient and have speed.
“Their defense gets af-ter you. They don’t just blitz and try to find the ball, they pretty much know where the ball is going be-fore they take off.
“They’ve beaten a lot of the teams that we have played and they are just a good football team. We will learn a lot from this team player wise and coaching staff wise. Again, iron sharpens iron and this will probably be one of the sharpest irons that we have faced thus far and proba-bly be one of the better teams that we will face this year.”
The last three games will be tough, however, these young men are fighting to the bitter end. Hopefully, you, the fans will stay with them and continue to fill the stands during these last three games.