So, it seems the Panthers’ season isn’t over.
Coming off an injury-filled weekend that decimated its starting backfield, Jefferson High’s football squad demonstrated two things in its Friday night game in Whitehall. First, its back-up quarterback is up to the task. And second: A strong defense actually does win games.
Behind sophomore signal-caller Braden Morris and a rock-solid D that controlled the game from the start, the Panthers smothered Whitehall, 28-0, posting their highest points total all fall.
The scoring started after Josiah Williams blocked a Trojan punt that gave the Panthers possession at the Whitehall 14. On third and 14, Morris scampered around the backfield, ran to the right, and tossed a pass to Joey Visser in the end zone for a score. The two-point conversion was fumbled, leaving Jefferson up 6-0 with 6:12 left in the opening period.
With time still remaining in the first quarter, the defense provided another opportunity with an interception – and Jaxson Yanzick ran into the end zone. A pass for two from Morris to Visser gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead. And that’s where the scoring stuck until halftime, as the temperature dropped and the Panther defense stiffened. It was bolstered by the return of Avery Stiles, cleared to play after dislocating a shoulder last week.
In the second half, Jake Genger knocked down a long pass that would have put Whitehall in a great position to score. And shortly after, Genger caught a pass from Morris to put the Panthers on Whitehall’s 19 yard line. A field goal attempt failed, as the snap went over the holder’s head, giving the Trojans possession on their own 25.
But then Visser picked off a Trojan pass, and the Panthers took over on the 47. A 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the 31, and on first down, Yanzick took advantage of a big hole to run it in for a touchdown. Morris completed another pass to Genger for two points, and it was 22-0, Panthers with 9:42 left in the game.
After Coen Guisti recovered a Trojan fumble on the 24, Yanzick put Jefferson up 28-0 with another nice run. And Santana Page nailed things down with an interception, allowing the Panthers to run out the clock for the 28-0 win.
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, Jefferson is in good position to make the four-team play-off. Broadwater, which beat the Panthers last weekend, sits atop District 5B at 4-0 and 5-1 overall. Manhattan High is second at 3-0 and 5-0 overall; and Jefferson is third at 3-1 and 3-2. Columbus and Sweet Grass County are both 1-2 in district play, while Whitehall is 0-3 and Three Forks is 0-4.
Jefferson will travel to Three Forks on Friday night, while Broadwater is off, Whitehall is at Columbus, and Sweet Grass County is at Manhattan. The top two teams in the regular season host first-round playoff games, while the third and fourth teams travel.