An electrifying third quarter of play Wednesday kept football fans on the edge of their seats watching four touchdowns, a blocked punt and a fumble recovery that would both lead to scores, and a lineman making an interception then returning it for a touchdown, all in the same period under a colorful full moon.
It was that kind of Halloween evening in Huntsville when Knox County Eagles of Edina battled No. 7-ranked Westran in Class 1 District 5 semifinal action.
Fortunately for Westran, the Hornets benefited the most on this trick-or-treat occasion and defeated Knox County winning 48-24.
"The third quarter seemed like it lasted about 3 days for me. We got up and seemed like we had all the momentum then Knox County came right back scoring twice. There was a lot things going on in that third quarter," said Westran football coach Curtis Jasper. "Obviously, for the spectator it was very entertaining but from my point of view it was too intense. Thankfully, we got done what needed to get done."
"We made a lot of mistakes in this game and we'll be studying the game film on this one pretty closely to see what we need to work on and improve. We did enough things right to survive and advance."
Westran (10-1) will get to host defending state runner-up champion South Shelby of Shelbina for the district championship title on Monday.
South Shelby Cardinals defeated Schuyler County of Queen City by a score of 39-6 in district play Wednesday.
In 2011, the Cardinals defeated Westran 28-14 in the state quarterfinals. The last two years has had both Westran and South Shelby playing for a Class 1 state championship only falling to Valle Catholic on each occasion to finish as runner-ups.
"This will be third year in a row we've met South Shelby in the playoffs, and we have split our first two meetings. This has become a big state playoff rivalry between us. They are physical on both sides of the ball," said coach Jasper. "The (Trace) Windsor kid is really good running back having about 1,500 yards rushing. They have two big linemen playing tackle (Ryan Larrick, 250 lbs. and Hadley Roberts, 240) who are both strong and quick. South Shelby is a sound, fundamental football team."
Last night sophomore quarterback Zane Jacoby of Westran found the end zone twice on touchdown runs of 25 and 6-yards in the opening quarter for a 14-0 lead. His first score was made possible when junior receiver Tayler Schermerhorn made an outstanding block on Lee Tague, putting the Knox County senior to the ground and that opened up the lane along the Westran sidelines for Jacoby to easily score with 7:18 left.
Knox County (7-4) scored on the first snap to open the second quarter of play when senior Kellen Gillaspy received the handoff and he ran 12 yards in for the score. He also ran in the 2-pt. conversion and the teams entered halftime with Westran leading 14-8.
Page 2 of 3 - Jacoby once again carried the load for Westran's offense last night. He carried the ball 25 times for 203 yards and had four rushing touchdowns. Jacoby also threw for 136 yards completing 8-of-15 passes, and he threw an interception.
Coach Jasper said he expected challenges in how his team would respond to Knox County's scheme of using misdirection handoffs and them finding the ball carrier in a timely manner to prevent long gains.
The Hornets struggled in defending what the Eagles were doing in the first half. Thankfully, a new plan was put together during halftime and it was rightfully put into practice the final two periods of play.
"The turning point of the game for us was at halftime. After closely watching what was taking place in the first half, (Offensive coord.) coach Lance Massey and (Defensive coord.) coach Scott Humphrey both had good ideas of making adjustments, in particular with our blocking assignments and with what our linebackers were doing and those adjustments worked for us in the second half," said coach Jasper.
The third quarter was a roller coaster ride of momentum for both teams that was witnessed by an estimated crowd of 500 persons in attendance. But on paper, it appeared that Westran easily pulled away from the Eagles when the scoreboard read 41-16 as it ended.
Third quarter fireworks began when Knox County was forced to punt with 6:40 remaining, and Gillaspy's punt was blocked. Westran junior lineman Doug Osborn broke through the middle and got his left hand on the ball and he recovered it at the Eagles 31.
"I came through their blocks quickly and had my hands up to block the punt. Then I chased the ball and fell on it, giving our team some good field position to score a touchdown later," said Osborn. "I think that gave the team a lift."
Four plays later, Jacoby scored on a 15-yard run but Westran's 2-pt.conversion attempt failed.
The score would be the first of three touchdowns Westran would generate within a time span of about 2 minutes when Knox County turned the football over on each of their next two possessions.
Knox County was at its own 34 junior lineman Zach Hayes of Westran knocked the football out of the hands of Gillaspy, and Jordan Dennis was there to recover the fumble at the Eagles 24.
Westran's first play from scrimmage was a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jacoby to Clay Ames with 4:18 left.
On their ensuing possession, Eagles quarterback Donovan Edwards' pass over the middle was deflected by a Westran player and the football landed in the arms of Osborn.
From here, Osborn fulfilled a lineman's dream as he returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.
"I think it was Zach Morgan who tipped the pass and the ball came to me and I caught it. I started running and Zach pancaked the guy in front of me, allowing some open space in front of me. At first I was thinking 'Holy @$%!' I've got the ball now. I've got to run with it, so I took off running," said Osborn. "I saw that end zone and there was only their quarterback close to me. I was running as hard as I could and held on to the ball tight. I really wanted that Pick-6 and score a touchdown because something like that does not happen too often for a guy like me. Man, scoring that touchdown was pretty awesome."
Page 3 of 3 - "Dean had a very good night. We think he is an all-state defensive lineman and he is very good offensive lineman as well," said coach Jasper. "It was no surprise to us the kind of plays he made on the field in this game because we know how great of a player he is."
Osborn's interception return for a touchdown had a short celebration.
The Eagles responded quickly using a 46-yard pass caught by Jared Barnard and then Gillaspy had a 19-yard touchdown reception with 3:20 remaining to trim Knox County's deficit to 34-16.
The Hornets closed out the quarter on a 3-yard TD run by Zach Morgan.
Both teams added a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Gillaspy virtually went untouched running up the middle 61 yards for a score to open the period, and with 5:09 left in the game Jacoby broke four tackles en route to him scoring on a 34-yard touchdown run.
Gillaspy led Knox County's offense rushing for 139 yards on 16 carries, and three rushing touchdowns. Barnard gained 79 yards on nine carries.
Edwards completed 4 of 11 passes for 50 yards and he threw an interception.
Passing Soph. Zane Jacoby threw for 136 yards completing 8-of-15 passes, with one TD and one INT.
Rushing Jacoby rushed 25 times for 203 yards and 4 TDs. Sr. Zach Morgan ran for 53 yards on 7 carries. Sr. Devin Canaday rushed 4 times for 33 yds.
Receiving Sr. Clay Ames caught 3 passes for 74 yds., including a 31-yard TD catch. Morgan had a 26-yard reception. Perkins caught 2 passes for 10 yds. Jr. Tayler Schermerhorn had a 13-yard reception and jr. Richard Courtney caught one for 4 yds.
Other Jr. place kicker Jordan Aulbur made all 6 PAT attempts.
Defense Highlights Jr. lineman Dean Osborn blocked a punt and recovered it. He also made an inteception and ran 36 yds. for a touchdown. Jordan Dennis recovered a fumble.