If Jefferson football coach Ed Rankin has any concern about overdramatizing, it did not show itself when asked the importance of his team’s home opener at 7 p.m. Friday against traditional rival Edgewood.
“This is the game,” the Falcons coach said. “This is the game for our program, our team, our community, our teachers, our former coaches. This is the game.”
The last time the two teams met on the football field, in Week 2 a year ago, certainly doesn’t ring fond memories for Rankin or his players.
Up 8-6 and with the fourth-quarter clock at Corlew Stadium approaching the one minute mark, Jefferson seemed to have the final nail in the coffin with a screen pass from Tyler Messenger to Garrett Bozcar that went to the Warriors 37 for a first down.
But, Edgewood’s Jacob Bell stripped the ball and returned it to the Falcons 42.
A couple of Alec Katon-to-Izaiah Harris connections later and the Warriors found themselves in the end zone with a stunning 14-8 win. Making the memories all the more painful for Jefferson is it went on to a winless remainder of the season.
The victory for Warriors coach Jon Butchcko was his first at Edgewood. He knows all too well, though, that anyone associated with Jefferson has been thinking about redemption ever since that night.
“They’ve had this one circled on the schedule for awhile,” Butchko said. “We were their best shot at a win.They almost pulled it out. We had an amazing steak of luck with the forced fumble and return by Jacob Bell. Then we hit Izaiah Harris twice.”
Aside from being county rivals and former members of the now defunct All-American Conference, the Warriors and Falcons have some obvious similarities and differences.
Both have second-year coaches looking to improve on their inaugural seasons. Both also have rosters that contain their share of youth. The style of play though is anything but comparable.
Jefferson will look to run right at the defense, while the Warriors want to spread things out and get their passing game going.
Each team has defeated Grand Valley and each team has suffered a convincing loss — Edgewood against Conneaut 49-0 Week One and Jefferson 54-0 last Friday.
In their win over GV, Falcons running back Danny Bruckman and quarterback DJ Hall combined for more than 300 yards on the ground.
Butchko talked about the Falcons attack.
“They got 11 guys with tremendous hard working qualities on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They were down 14-0 to GV, and that game looked on the verge of a blowout. I know the injury to the GV quarterback expedited that card, but those kids played hard and they just kept chopping at that tree until it came down.”
By contrast, Edgewood’s Zach Winchell threw for nearly 300 yards and four touchdown passes in a 40-7 win last week over the Mustangs.
Harris had seven catches for 150 yards and two scores.
Tying to slow down the Warriors weapons will be quite the challenge for Rankin’s group.
“Everything concerns me about them,” he said. “If we want to play up and tight coverage, they can throw it over our heads to make plays, if we want to drop off, they’ll just dump it off and let their guys run.
“What makes them dangerous is 10 of their guys offensively can not have a great game, but if one of their guys go up and make a big play, they can hurt us. They’re also sound on defense, they are much improved, they’re a fun team to watch.”
Prior to Edgewood’s win a year ago, Jefferson had won eight in a row in the rivalry that goes back as far as 1964.