BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Jefferson football coach Brandon Hanna had the undivded attention of his team at the 30-yard line of Raider Stadium Friday following the 63-21 loss in this Northeast-8 Conference contest.
“We preach family,” he said. “We just don’t talk about it. As a coach, the biggest thing in our program is love. Love is a word that may be spread around a little too much without enough action.
“As coaches, we love on these guys. When you love your kids, you establish a relationship and the scoreboard doesn’t change that relationship at all.”
Jefferson dropped to 3-5 and 0-5 in the NE-8, but Hanna said the scoreboard does not define these Falcons.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way,” he said. “Our kids are starting to believe that.”
Jefferson junior quarterback Grant Hitchcock had 89 yards passing and 59 rushing to pace the Falcons — an elusive player every game for Jefferson.
“That kid’s consistent,” Hanna said. “He’s a heck of a ball player. He’s just a smart kid, one of the hardest working kids in our program. It shows on Friday nights.”
South Range (8-0, 5-0) is one of the top teams in Division V, Region 17 — a team likely to have a home game in Week 11. Jefferson is still hanging around in the top 16, looking for a playoff berth.
“Hopefully they stay healthy and keep doing what they’re doing,” Hanna said of South Range.
As for Jefferson, they’ve struggled to stay healthy.
Luke Funtash is out for the season with personal reasons, Hanna said. Trent Hodge, who was injured in a Week 6 game at Hubbard, returned Friday and had a couple of catches.
“Finally,” Hanna said. “I missed that kid. He’s coming along. He’s been dealing with that ankle injury. It’s good to get him in. I saw the fight in his eyes at halftime. He asked to jump in on defense.
“We’re limiting his reps and hope to use him at home these last couple of weeks.”
Jefferson hosts Poland next week and ends the regular season against Lakeview in two weeks.
Jefferson’s Wade Woodworth has stepped up with 18 carries for 46 yards, taking most of the rushing workload for the Falcons.
“Four [Hitchcock] and 3 [Woodworth] set the standard for this program and the direction we want to head in,” Hanna said. “That kid (Woodworth) does it all. When he wasn’t running the ball, he was lead blocking, creating lanes for other guys running the ball. It makes it a little easier with four standing back there, too.”
Both Jefferson and South Range had quick-strike offenses to start them early in the first quarter.
The Raiders averaged less than 2 minutes a drive going about four plays in the first 24 minutes.
It started with a five-play drive going 62 yards capped by a Billy Skirpac 5-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 10:31 left in the quarter.
Jefferson would show its prowess as Kaige Boczar took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for the score 13 seconds later for a 7-7 game.
South Range scored again with a four-play drive, going 72 yards with 8:50 left in the first quarter as the Raiders took a 14-7 lead on Dylan Dominguez’s 20-yard scamper.
The Raiders went four plays in about 2 minutes with 4:56 left in the first, going 77 yards — capped by Dominguez’s 38-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.
Jefferson put the longest drive of the first half as the Falcons went 14 plays and 71 yards in about seven minutes as Wade Woodworth went in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal with 10 minutes before halftime as the Falcons cut into the South Range lead, 21-14.
The Raiders countered with 7:03 left in the half as they went seven plays in 66 yards in about 3 minutes as Skirpac went 17 yards for the score and a 28-14 lead.
The Falcons countered with a five-play drive spanning less than 3 minutes as Hitchcock eluded many South Range defenders on fourth-and-4 from the Raiders 49 for a 51-yard TD scamper. Jefferson trailed 28-21 with 4:36 left before halftime.
“We had a game plan offensively,” Hanna said. “We felt we would be able to go a little heavier and run the ball.
“We threw a couple more linemen in there and seeing if we can run with these guys. We were able to move the ball and pass a little bit.”
South Range countered with a five-play drive in about 2 minutes, capped by a Dominguez 1-yard TD run and a 35-21 Raiders lead.
Jefferson punted from around midfield with less than 15 seconds before halftime. South Range’s Shane Lindstrom took the punt at the Raiders’ 16 and eluded many Jefferson plays and hurdled a Falcons defender near the Jefferson 30 for an 84-yard punt return for a score as time expired in the half.
South Range led 42-21 at the break.
Hitchcock had 58 yards passing and 50 rushing at halftime.
Skirpac had 198 yards passing and was 8-of-8 attempts for South Range.
He finished the
game 11-of-11 for 221 yards.
Dominiguez had nine carries for 178 yards and a handful of scores.
“They set the standard for our region and for this league,” Hanna said of South Range. “We’re happy to be here and give a little fight with them for a half at least.”