By ERIC FORTUNE
For the Star Beacon
NEWTON FALLS —
The Jefferson Falcons were on the cusp of qualifying for the playoffs last season.
Entering this season, they had to replace 18 of 22 starters from last year, the 1-4 record might point to the struggles of replacing all that talent, but in essence, the Falcons are four points away from being 5-1 and in the thick of things.
So Friday night, in the thick of an engulfing fog that swallowed the field, it didn’t change the what Jefferson was looking to accomplish in their 52-18 rout of the Newton Falls Tigers.
After forcing a three-and-out on the opening series, the Falcons seized momentum when Lucas Hitchcock found Cole Erdel on a fade that went 85 yards to paydirt just two minutes and three seconds into the game to make it 7-0.
“It was something we worked on all week,” Jefferson coach Jim Henson said. “We actually had a couple of different options we were looking at, depending on the coverage. They came up late and pressed man.
“We thought if they did that, we could get behind them. Cole ran a great route and Lucas hit him. It was exactly what we were looking for.”
The Tigers would get excellent field position on the ensuing kickoff at their own 42 yard, only to see the drive stall at the Falcon 33.
The Falcons turned to the running of freshman Jermiah Knight (who finished with 151 yards on 17 carries), on a 10-play, 67 yard drive to push the advantage to 13-0 on another pass from Hitchcock to Erdel, covering 17 yards.
Using their own steady dose of running between Larry Zarlengo (83 yards) and Brandon Fuller (98 yards), the Tigers (1-5, 0-2) cut into the Falcon advantage at 13-6 on Fuller’s 1-yard run at the 8:44 mark of the second quarter.
Less than a minute later, instead of taking back the early momentum of Jefferson, the Tigers again gave up a quick 2-play drive from the Falcons, Hitchcock throwing his second of three touchdown passes. This time, to Derek Parker to make it 19-6.
“That definitely put the momentum in their court,” Newton Falls coach Jon Culp said.
“It definitely took it away from us.”
The Falcons rolled off 19 unanswered points before the Tigers got back into the scoring column.
By that time, the Falcons (2-3, 1-2) were up, 38-12, with the outcome already decided, despite the Tigers controlling much of the possession in the second half. It’s an area Henson still sees room for improvement.
“They controlled the ball in the second half,” Henson said. “We were working on our defense trying to get better.
“We have to play better.”
Hitchcock completed 5 of 7 passes for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns. Erdel caught 3 of Hitchcock’s tosses for 112 yards and his 2 touchdowns.
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.