A tale of two halves played out when Jersey visited Triad on Sept. 22.
The Knights struck first in the battle of 2-2 squads, opening the game with a two-play scoring drive for the second consecutive week.
Starting from his own 40 yard line, quarterback Isaac Ackerman connected with Tashon Crockarell down the right sideline for 49 yards. Following a pre-snap penalty that pushed them back five yards, Ackerman handed the ball off to Colin Qualls for a 16 yard touchdown rush up the middle.
An extra point from Cory Warren pushed the Knights ahead 7-0 and would prove to be the final point of the opening quarter.
Jersey would drive into Triad territory on their first three drives of the night, but their best ended with a 33 yard field goal attempt that fell short. Triad’s offense would fail to pick up another first down during their two other first quarter drives.
The game’s next scoring drive began with nine minutes remaining in the half and the Knights backed up to their own 20 yard line.
A halfback screen to Qualls proved the initial spark for the possession, driving the ball six yards from midfield. Ian Dempsey bested single coverage a short while later to the tune of a 55 yard receiving touchdown from Ackerman and a Gibson Hunt point after try extended the lead to 14-0.
Following a quick stop from the Knight defense, the offense began their next drive at their own 44 yard line. This march downfield later broke into the redzone when Qualls converted a fourth and three with an 11 yard carry.
Triad found themselves behind the chains again in the drive when faced with a third and eleven from the thirteen yardline. A sweep to junior Louis Yohannes, which featured a broken tackle in the backfield, not only converted the third down but also scored for the Knights. Warren’s extra point extended the lead to 21-0.
Jersey responded with their best possession of the evening, marching as far down as Triad’s 12 yard line. However, they would leave Knight territory scoreless for the fourth time as defensive end Owen Lightner recovered a fumble to take back possession.
Faced with 79 yards to travel in just over two minutes, Ackerman quickly found Yohannes to advance near midfield. Later in the drive, Ackerman found Dempsey uncovered down the left sideline for a 61 yard touchdown pass.
After pushing Triad ahead 28-0 with an extra point, Hunt pinned Jersey back to their own 12 yard line with the ensuing kickoff.
The Panthers would use all 97 seconds left to them on the drive, culminating to a 14 yard passing touchdown as time expired. A successful extra point pulled them within 28-7 at the break.
“I felt like we gave momentum going to halftime after that score. That’s something we cannot do,” Coach Calvin Potthast spoke of the key turning point in the bout.
That momentum remained in the visitors’ corner in the second half, as they pulled within 28-14 on the first drive. Quarterback Easton Heafner connected with Jaxon Brunaugh for 22 yards after facing fourth and four for the score, their second touchdown connection of the night.
Jersey’s seventh drive into Knight territory came with four minutes remaining, where a deep pass pushed them to Triad’s 37 yard line. The next play, Heafner recorded his third touchdown pass with a strike to Aiden Tally to pull within 28-21 with 4:18 to play.
The Panthers elected to try a short pop-up kick to regain possession, but Triad’s Brock Lynch fair caught the onsides attempt. Lynch’s fair catch would also draw a 15 yard penalty with a late hit from Jersey, starting his offense seven yards into Panther territory.
When faced with a fourth and inches from the 34 yard line, Ackerman converted for Triad with a sneak up the middle. The junior quarterback picked up another rushing first down later in the drive to allow them to kneel the clock out and hold on for a 28-21 victory.
Now at 3-2 on the year with back-to-back wins, Potthast reacted to the victory, “This means a lot. It’s continuing towards our goal, but we will enjoy it for a short time and we’ll get ready for Mascoutah. They’re a really good team next week and we’ve got to get ready for them.”
With 314 passing yards in the victory, Ackerman increased his season total to 1214 through the air. That mark surpassed Triad’s previous single season passing record set by Troy Scharadan in 2005 with 1173 yards.
In week six, the Knights will travel to Mascoutah for a chance at their third consecutive victory and fourth overall. The Indians enter with a 2-3 record after splitting their first two league matches.
Through their past four meetings, the home team has emerged victorious. The most recent meetings in Mascoutah have been particularly one-sided, with the Indians winning 40-0 and 34-10 in their hostings of Triad.