DELPHOS — It was only two weeks ago that Ada and Delphos Jefferson slugged it out in a thriller at Delphos Stadium.
On Friday, they’ll square off again when the Bulldogs (7-3) travel back to Delphos Stadium to take on the Wildcats (9-1) in a Division VI regional quarterfinal game. The winner will get another rematch when it plays either LCC or Crestview on Nov. 15 at a site to be determined.
In Week 9, Ada handed host Delphos Jefferson a healthy dose of disappointment with a 25-20 victory. It was a game that split the Northwest Conference crown three ways and proved to be the Wildcats’ lone loss of the regular season.
“It’s definitely the one game the kids wanted to play again,” Delphos Jefferson coach Bub Lindeman said. “We came out extremely timid. It felt as if we were trying not to lose. There was so much at stake: The perfect record, the league title, all those things. The kids put a lot of pressure on themselves and it showed.”
In that game the Bulldogs’ defense played superbly in the first half against the Wildcats’ prolific offense. Ada’s defense forced a fumble, scored a safety and allowed just 79 passing yards and only 4 rushing yards to star running back Zavier Buzard.
The second half was a different story. Buzard scored twice as Jefferson came back to build a 20-11 lead. Buzard finished with 117 yards rushing while quarterback Austin Jettinghoff passed for 183 yards.
Ada fired back in the fourth quarter and won when quarterback Matt Wilcox led an 87-yard, 13-play drive that culminated in an 8-yard touchdown pass to Blake Ansley with 45 seconds remaining to give Ada the win.
In the game, Ansley ran for 101 yards on 18 carries and caught eight passes for 82 yards. Wilcox ran for 63 yards on 19 carries and threw for 179 yards, completing 18-of-33 passes with three interceptions.
Wilcox’s season has been very impressive considering he played receiver last year. He finished this year with 2,145 yards and 28 touchdown passes, he also ran for 632 yards and three touchdowns.
“Matt’s improved just about weekly,” Ada coach Bob Olwin said. “He’s a smart kid, and he wants to do well. The game is still a little fast for him because he’s not used to all the things going on as a quarterback, but he’s been a very solid player, and he continues to improve.”
Austin Dumbaugh had 60 receptions for 477 yards and five touchdowns this season while Spencer Archer had 19 catches for 206 yards and eight touchdowns. Ansley ran for 312 yards and four touchdowns with 43 receptions and 516 yards with six TDs.
Ansley is a standout as the middle linebacker on defense, where he registered 102 tackles, two sacks and seven tackles for loss. He was a big key for an Ada defense that is brutal along its defensive front.
“Ansley is really a hard-nosed kid,” Lindeman said. “He’s a sophomore but he plays like a senior.
“Ada really got after us and took us out of our game in that first half. That front five they have on defense, they’re all two-year starters so they’re extremely experienced. That’s our strong suit, running the ball first and they forced us to do some other things.”
Olwin said his team’s No. 1 strength all season has been the starting defensive front of Dumbaugh, Saed Al-Olimat, Noah Beach, Chase Tomak, Hunter Waller and Lane Nitchie.
That crew will once again have a tough challenge from a Delphos Jefferson offense that averaged 40.4 points per game and looked much better in the second half of their matchup two weeks ago.
Buzard finished the season with 1,674 rushing yards on 226 carries with 30 touchdowns. Jettinghoff finished with 1,474 passing yards with 13 touchdowns. Ross Thompson was his top target with 31 catches for 569 yards and seven scores while Tyler Mox had 25 catches for 420 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’re very talented and very fast,” Olwin said. “They’re just a very talented team. And defensively, they’re very sound. They can get into three or four different fronts, and they get in and out of coverages very well. Their kids react to the ball and are very physical. It won’t be an easy task.”
The Jefferson defense gave up just 13.7 points per game while Ada’s gave up 21.5 points per game.