SPENCERVILLE – It struck like lightning and stole Spencerville’s thunder.
Delphos Jefferson quarterback Austin Jettinghoff connected with Ross Thompson for a 60-yard touchdown strike just before half to put the Wildcats up 21-7 in a Northwest Conference game at Spencerville on Friday. The play was a huge momentum shift in the Wildcats’ favor as they went on to win the regular season finale 35-21.
Delphos Jefferson (9-1, 6-1) claimed a share of the NWC title with Ada and Crestview, the Wildcats’ first banner since 2001. It also most likely secured a home playoff game for Jefferson – its first playoff berth since 2008 – when the postseason begins next week.
“I’ve got a really happy football team right now,” Jefferson coach Bub Lindeman said. “We challenged them all week. They really bounced back after last week (a loss to Ada) and that shows resiliency. Our motto was play like it’s your last play, and this senior group did that.”
Jefferson looked strong early on both sides of the ball, grabbing a 14-0 lead when Jettinghoff hit Thompson for a 10-yard touchdown score at the 7:08 mark of the second quarter. The Wildcats opened their scoring when Zavier Buzard scored on a 1-yard run at the 6:06 mark of the first quarter.
However, the Bearcats clawed back with their powerful running game. Following a long kickoff return to Jefferson’s 37-yard line by Anthony Schuh, Spencerville’s offense found the end zone nine plays later when quarterback Mason Nourse hit Schuh for a 10-yard score that cut the lead to 14-7.
After both teams traded punts, and with halftime quickly approaching, the lightning struck.
On second-and-20 from their own 40-yard line, Jettinghoff found Thompson streaking down the middle of the field for the 60-yard touchdown with only 47 seconds remaining in the half to put the Wildcats up 21-7.
“I think that score took the wind out of us,” Spencerville coach John Zerbe said. “We had some momentum there. and we never really got it back. I don’t think we ever recovered.”
Jefferson then dropped the hammer with a long scoring drive to start the second half. The march went 80 yards on 15 plays, soaking up 7:04 and culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run by Buzard to up Jefferson’s lead to 28-7.
“The best defense for (Spencerville’s) Wing-T is to keep the ball out of their hands,” Lindeman said. “We did that in the second half. Our kids just kept making play after play. We get the quick strike right before half and then came out and meat-grinded one right after the half.”
Jettinghoff and Thompson linked up for a third touchdown late in the fourth, scoring on an 18-yard strike at the 4:02 mark. The tandem linked up four times for 94 yards total.
“That’s something we saw in film,” Lindeman said. “We talked to Ross before the game and told him we thought there was an area there that would help him out and he did a nice job getting open in space. And Austin did a nice job finding him. Austin runs the offense, sometimes he’s the unsung hero but he really runs our offense.”
Jettinghoff finished with 191 passing yards and three touchdowns, completing 14-of-20 passes with no interceptions. Meanwhile, Jefferson’s running game controlled the clock as Buzard finished with 165 rushing yards on 35 carries.
“They’ve got some really good players, Buzard’s a great player, Jettinghoff’s a great player but I think Ross Thompson is the best player on their team,” Zerbe said. “He is a great football player.”
Thompson not only found the end zone three times, he also played a key role in Jefferson’s linebacking corps, which allowed just 81 rushing yards total in the first half and 167 for the game.
Schuh led the Bearcats with 84 yards on 20 carries. He scored twice, once on the 10-yard pass and later on a 12-yard run. Colton Miller had 56 rushing yards on 17 carries.
While Jefferson was cruising entering the fourth quarter up 28-7, Spencerville didn’t quit. Nourse hit Zach Goecke for an 11-yard touchdown early in the quarter to cut the lead to 28-14. Then, following the final Jettinghoff-to-Thompson touchdown to put Jefferson up 35-14, Spencerville scored on Schuh’s 12-yard run to cut the deficit to 35-21.
Spencerville then recovered an onside kick, but Jefferson’s defense stopped the final drive to secure the win. Spencerville ends its season 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the NWC.
“We got a lot out of the kids this year,” Zerbe said. “They played as hard as they could and never gave up. I know it’s not easy to end the season on a loss, but I’m really proud of them.”