Jeannette erases 21-point deficit to defeat Springdale in wild Eastern Conference matchup

Friday, October 9, 2020 | 10:46 PM

It’s not always about how you start a game but rather how you finish it, and Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Jeannette proved that to be true.

After trailing by 21 points early in the second quarter, the No. 3 Jayhawks (4-1, 4-1) outscored Springdale (4-1, 4-1) by 22 points over the rest of the game and cruised to a 36-28 victory.

“I’ll tell you what, they better take three teams (to the playoffs) out of our conference because that’s a really good ball team right there in Springdale,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “But our defense stepped up when we needed to, and we made some plays we really, really had to.”

The Dynamos got their scoring started early, but it wasn’t pretty. Their first punt was blocked by Jeannette on fourth-and-15, but Logan Dexter picked it up and galloped 15 yards for the first down. The Dynamos cruised from there and capped a 93-yard drive with a 13-yard pass from quarterback Legend Ausk to Demitri Fritch.

Ausk, who completed 14 of his 24 passes for 245 yards, threw all three of his touchdowns passes in the first half and put his team up 21-0 four minutes into the second quarter.

But then the Jayhawks came alive. Roberto Smith ran for an 18-yard touchdown. Brad Birch, who is believed to be the first freshman quarterback to start in Jeannette’s history, hit Toby Cline with a 6-yard strike in the back of the end zone.

The real momentum-changer happened five seconds before the end of the half. The Dynamos were marching down the field, and Ausk looked for a receiver on the right sideline. Smith picked off the pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.

With two failed point-after kicks and one failed 2-point conversion, the Jayhawks trailed by three heading into the half.

“We got up, and we spent all our energy up here,” Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski said about the swing in momentum in the second quarter. “Sometimes you have to bring it back down and focus on the next play. I think we just got a little ahead of ourselves.”

The teams traded scores in the third quarter, with sophomore Jaydin Canady rushing for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Jayhawks ahead 24-21. The Dynamos answered almost immediately with a Cavin Kindler 1-yard touchdown run after a 27-yard pitch and catch from Ausk to Fritch put them in striking distance.

Then the Jayhawks defense took the game over as sophomore lineman Emilio Huerta caused three turnovers in the second half. He intercepted Ausk on two screen passes, with the second coming in the final moments to seal the win, and he also recovered a fumble at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

“We were just trying to get each other up. We never back down from a fight,” Huerta said. “We just never wanted to give up there.”

With just over eight minutes remaining in the game, the Jayhawks took the lead for good. Birch marched the Jayhawks down the field on a six-play, 64-yard drive that he capped himself with an 8-yard touchdown run.

“He’s a freshman, and he stepped up for us tonight,” Hall said. “He still has some things to work on, and he gets frustrated sometimes, but he has no bigger critic then himself. I wouldn’t trade him for nobody.”

Despite the final result, the Dynamos showed the level they were capable of reaching. They pushed a perennial contender to the brink, and their coach believes they should be in the conversation for a playoff spot.

“I think this shows that we can play with anyone in Single-A,” Napierkowski said. “(Jeannette) took Clairton to the brink, and Clairton is No. 1 in the state, so to be able to play with teams like that shows where we belong in this classification.”

Jeannette will host Bishop Canevin next week, and Springdale will be home for the second straight week as it hosts Imani Christian.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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