By VINCE PELUSO
Freaky Friday is a term typically reserved for Halloween season, but one could use that term to describe what happened at Falcon Pride Stadium on Friday night.
In a game in which the Edgewood Warriors had three touchdowns called back for penalties (13 penalties on the night) and didn’t punt the entire game in facing a Jefferson Falcons team that committed three turnovers and had 10 penalties themselves, and neither team successfully converted an extra point, it was the Falcons that prevailed, 26-12.
When asked if it was a weird night, Jefferson coach Jimmy Henson just chuckled and responded, “Ya think?”
Jefferson (1-1) was led by the play of first-year starting quarterback Cole Erdel’s 116 yards rushing (one touchdown), two Ryan Zindash rushing touchdowns and a defense that held the Warriors to five turnover on downs, two interceptions and a safety.
“How many punts did they fake? I think they rolled the dice a couple of those times,” Henson said. “(It was) a big game for them, and they went after it. We (prepared for it) and we still didn’t cover it very well (Riis Smith connected with Anthonie Magda for a 42-yard gain on one fake).
“We talked about it, we thought they had a lot riding on this one. They had a tough one last week and I know what they got coming next week (Kirtland). This was a big game for them so I thought we were going to see everything and we did. At times we caught it, at other times we didn’t.”
One of the early turning points in the game occurred with the score knotted at 6 in the second quarter.
The Edgewood (0-2) defense held the Jefferson offense on fourth down at the Edgewood one then Connor McLaughlin caught a 78-yards touchdown pass from Alex Wisnyai, only to have the play overturned for offensive pass interference.
That led to a fourth and 30 in which the Warriors tried a fake punt from deep in its own territory, but it resulted in a fumble that ended in a safety and 8-6 Jefferson lead.
On the ensuing drive, Smith intercepted an Erdel pass and returned it to the Jefferson 30 which set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from Wisnyai to McLaughlin, giving the Warriors a 12-8 lead after a two-point conversation failed.
Jefferson answered right back though, taking just 40 seconds for Erdel to score from 19 yards out and taking a 14-12 lead.
“He’s growing,” Henson said of Erdel. “From last week to this week he made improvements. Keep building on it, keep building on it. We watched the film, we can see the mistakes, we can see what we’re trying to do. We got 20 guys who never started before. But we’re growing.”
Jefferson carried that lead into the half and the game stayed that way going into the fourth quarter.
First-year Edgewood coach Josh Franke said he liked the position his team was in going into the half.
“We were in perfect position to win the football game,” he said. “They had a really long drive, chewed up a lot of clock in the third quarter, and we didn’t execute when we got the ball back. That’s unfortunate, it happens we gotta get better at executing and finishing drives.”
Penatlies started to mount for the Warriors in the second half.
A 67-yard touchdown pass to McLaughlin was again negated, this time for an illegal man down field.
Jefferson stretched the lead to 20-12 thanks to a two-yard run from Zindash, a drive that started on the Edgewood 13 thanks to another failed fake punt.
The extra point was initially good, giving Jefferson a two-score lead, but was called back thanks to a holding penalty and the ensuing two-point conversation was no good, leaving the door open for the Warriors, down 8.
They seemed poised to take advantage as Smith took a screen pass 41 yards for a score with 4:02 remaining, but the play was called back for holding.
“I think it’s a rivalry game, the kids had the adrenaline pumping a little bit and they’re getting a little antsy... It is what it is,” he said. “You’re going to make those mistakes, you’re going to get excited during rivalry games, unfortunately the penalties cost us tonight. It’s really unfortunate.”
The drive ultimately ended in another turn over on downs, and Jefferson capitalized again.
For the first time to this point in the game, a big play was made without a penalty.
Erdel connected with James Jackson on a 38-yard strike down to the Jefferson 3, that eventually led to a game-sealing 2-yard touchdown run from Zindash.
“Weren’t expecting that one, were you?” Henson said of the play. “We lined up and I saw as soon as we went trips they were walking their backside corner up and James is about 6-foot-3 and their kid is not. We were in a position where it was going to be tough to get the first down, we took a shot.
“And I told the guys, ‘I know, nobody’s expecting this, we’re going to take a shot right now.’ I thought he made a great play and went up and got the ball.”
Edgewood mounted one last charge as Smith connected with Magda for a 42-yard gain to bring the ball to the Jefferson 19, but Cody Leonardson picked off a Warriors pass with 35 seconds remaining to end any comeback hopes.
Field position played a big factor in the game as the Falcons started five drives in plus-territory and one at midfield.
“First off, it was again penalties,” Franke said of the field position. “When you start moving the ball a little bit and suddenly it’s second and 20, 25 yards there’s not many plays in the playbook that we can go to to get 25 yards. Unfortunately, penalties gave us really bad field position.
“There were a couple times where we called a fake punt and it cost us.”
Franke said he isn’t worried about his teams mental state after an 0-2 start and a matchup at perennial state power Kirtland coming in Week 3.
“We’re going to be fine, I’ve got a lot of tough kids on my team,” he said. “Kirtland, ya know, we gotta bounce back. Kirtland’s another really good football team. I’ve been saying it since I got the job, the first three games of the year are by far the toughest of schedule. We’ve got to bounce back (mentally) if we wanna have a chance against Kirtland.”
On the opposite sideline, Henson said the win is important for his young football team going into a matchup at Lakeside.
“You know, these guys haven’t been the ones up front to get that win,” he said. “It’s a big thing, obviously they’re very excited. They got to go down and celebrate with the band a little bit, hopefully this get things rolling in the right direction.”