Brock Netter, Staff Writer
JACKSON — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and once Jackson got its train on the tracks Friday night, there was no turning back.
After being tied 14-14 in the second quarter, the Ironmen (11-0) exploded for 28 unanswered points and continued the onslaught, sending a resounding message across Division III with a 70-28 victory over Centennial (9-2) in a Division III, Region 11 Quarterfinal.
The 70-point outburst also set a new school record for most points in a single game.
“This is an amazing feeling to set a new record,” junior tight end Treylan Davis said. “Honestly, I didn’t think that we were going to get it, and it’s even crazier that it happened in the playoffs and not the regular season.”
Jackson stuffed Centennial on its first drive to set up a short field. But on its second play, a fumble gave the ball back to the Stars.
Centennial capitalized as Jaylen Gilbert found Charles Dean on a 45-yard pass before he was tackled at the one-yard line. Gilbert punched it in on the next play for a 7-0 lead.
That served as a wake-up call for the Ironmen, and they answered.
After Brice Graham ripped off a 35-yard gain, Jayden Spires found the end zone two plays later from 23 yards out to tie the game at 7-7.
“Playoffs are a completely different ball game,” Spires said. “It’s the last home game for us seniors so we wanted to go out on a high note. With everyone watching and supporting us, this was a great night for us to play the way we did.”
The Ironmen then came up with a stop in the form of a Jacob Winters interception. Spires led the charge down the field with two runs of 25 yards each and then Jared Icenhower reached pay dirt from a yard out for a 14-7 lead.
However, the Stars weren’t going away that easily. They marched down the field before Gilbert hit Dean with a 16-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14.
“I don’t think we came out with the right mindset or a level enough head,” Davis said. “We probably got a little ahead over ourselves and thought ahead to future weeks with the possibility of us going farther. It got us in the beginning and we weren’t playing as well as we usually do.”
Despite being in unfamiliar territory with the opposition, the Ironmen responded with grit and scored the next two touchdowns to take a 28-14 lead as Icenhower found Davis on a rollout for a 23-yard strike before a two-yard run from Graham.
“It all started with the guys up front for the blocking and giving Jared time to execute the play,” Davis said. “He threw a perfect pass, placed it right where it needed to be. Celebrating with the guys in the end zone, watching the coaches and the bench go insane, it’s one huge brotherhood and I’m thankful for them.”
With momentum fully on its side, Jackson kicked things into high gear in all three phases of the game.
In a six-play sequence, Graham found the endzone for a 35-14 lead. Then Tristan Prater intercepted a pass, which was followed by Icenhower hitting Davis for a 27-yard touchdown, their second of the game and one that created the 28 unanswered points.
After Centennial scored to cut the lead to 42-21, Graham scored his third touchdown of the game to push the lead back up to 28 points.
“The offensive line did a heck of a job,” Graham said. “They’ve improved as a whole unit and this was just my night. But the team was making play after play in all three phases, which was awesome.”
It was then time for the special teams to make a play, and Spires came through with a blocked punt that was recovered by Grant Mastin in the end zone for the touchdown.
Later, Jacob Winters and Spires both scored on the ground to make history for the Ironmen.
“We’ve worked so hard in the offseason for this moment and it’s a great accomplishment,” Icenhower said. “It’s something that will go down in school history. For us, we’ll enjoy it for now but there’s more work to be done.”
Jackson advances to a Division III, Region 11 semifinal in Week 12, where it’ll face Jonathan Alder, who defeated Sheridan 35-13 on Friday. The location of that contest is expected to be announced this weekend.
“It’s back to being 0-0 now,” Graham said. “This was a great win and we’ll enjoy it, but we take things one at a time. We’ll prepare hard, get back to work and go get it on Friday.”