By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Five untimely penalties. Two dropped touchdown passes. One fumble. The Rockford Jefferson J-Hawks had their share of mistakes against Rockford Auburn Friday, Sept. 9.
But luckily, Jefferson had Josh Woodford on their side. And that was enough for them to pick up a 14-0 win over the Knights to get their first win of the year.
“We could tell (Auburn) was breaking down a little bit in the second half,” Woodford said. “They didn’t lay down, because they gave us a heck of a fight. But they started breaking down.”
Woodford was the star in what was otherwise a defensive struggle. The J-Hawks gained 206 yards in offense, but 130 of that came on Woodford’s 20 carries.
The J-Hawks struck early in the game when Joe Ward connected with Louis Dalton on a 30-yard touchdown strike, his only completion of the game. Ward said they saw something on their first possession that made them try several early passes.
“We thought it was going to be a run-oriented game,” he said. “We started reading their defense, and they were coming up right away, so we thought we could get into passing the ball.”
From there, however, the Knights’ defense stepped up and shut the J-Hawks down in the middle of the game. In the midst of the stout Auburn defense, there were several dropped passes as well, which helped stall the Jefferson attack.
“We have some kids that can catch the ball, but they’re still not quite certain of what to do or where to go when we call a pass, which is not a happy thing,” Jefferson coach Rick Schmitz said. “I tell the kids, ‘You only have a couple of opportunities in the game.’ And I thought we used a couple up, and I was a little concerned about that, but they hung in.”
The J-Hawks were able to hang in thanks to their own stout defense, which stifled the Auburn offense. Jefferson was able to hold the Knights to 134 total yards and made two late interceptions to seal the victory.
“Our defense definitely stepped it up this week,” Ward said. “That’s how Jefferson defense is played. One-hundred-and-ten percent, smash-mouth, rally to the ball.”
That gave the J-Hawks enough of a chance for Woodford to seal the game late in the third. The senior scored on a 27-yard touchdown run, which saw him run through and around defenders on his way to the score.
“I was happy for him with that run, because it showed what he can do in the open field,” Schmitz said. “Hopefully, that helps him know when he gets in that chute, that cutback hole is there.”
In other NIC-10 action:
• Rockford Boylan Catholic stretched their record NIC-10 winning streak to 50 games, beating Rockford Guilford 49-0. The Titans got three touchdowns on six carries from Tyreis Thomas. The Titans also held Vikings star Dontrell Chance to only 31 rushing yards.
• Rockford East picked up its first win of the year, topping Freeport 28-20. Davonte Williams led the E-Rabs with 116 rushing yards, while Wes Short chipped in 82 rushing yards, and quarterback Andrew Lantz threw for 121 yards and a touchdown.
• The Rockton Hononegah Indians looked strong in dismantling the Belvidere Bucs by a score of 42-12. In the last minute of a tight first half, Carlos Hendrix scored from 69 yards out, and an interception by Lexus Rascoe was returned for a touchdown to break the game open. Hendrix had 224 total yards and three touchdowns in the win.
• Responding to their heartbreaking loss at Rockford Boylan Catholic, the Machesney Park Harlem Huskies righted the ship in a big way, topping Belvidere North 42-17. Cody DiGiovanni threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns while Kevin Witcik ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Austin Smaha ran for 121 yards for the Blue Thunder.
From the Sept. 14-20, 2011, issue