Anna and Delphos St John’s entered Saturday nights’ MAC Showdown with identical 3-1 records. The Rockets took advantage of Blue Jays mistakes early, then used big plays of their own to improve to 4-1.
Delphos – The game could not have started much worse for the Delphos St John’s Blue Jays.
Hosting the Anna Rockets in a key MAC showdown, the Blue Jays fumbled the ball away the first three times they possessed it. Anna quickly took advantage to build a 14-0 lead after a quarter.
After the Blue Jays cut the lead to 14-7 at halftime, the Rockets used three huge plays of their own to carve out a 42-21 win and stay in the hunt for the MAC title at the halfway point of the season. The Blue Jays, who had won three straight, are now 3-2 and also have 1 loss in conference play.
“That was a hard-fought football game,” said second year Anna coach Nick Marino. “Our special teams really came up big for us in the second half. We were able to bust a couple of big ones that gave us some breathing room.”
“When you spot a good football team three and half quarters, you are not going to win,” was the short and to the point summation from Blue Jays veteran coach Todd Schulte.
How bad were things at the start for Delphos you ask? Consider:
Eric Vogt fumbled the opening kick, and the Rockets recovered at the Blue Jay 36. The defense forced Anna to give up the ball on downs, but the bad news was only beginning for Schulte’s charges.
On their first play from scrimmage, Aaron Reindel, the Blue Jays leading rusher and scorer, was knocked out of bounds and seemingly out of the game with what appeared to be a severe injury to his right leg. He was taken off the field on a cart. On the next play, quarterback Jacob Youngpeter fumbled, and the Rockets recovered again.
This time, Anna did take advantage, driving 35 yards in 8 plays, with quarterback Travis Meyer scoring from the three.
Reindel miraculously returned on the following drive, but coughed up the pigskin at the Anna 28, the Jays third turnover of the quarter. Meyer scored again from the three to cap a 6 play 72-yard drive, and Anna had a 14-0 lead.
Delphos finally got its act together after a short Anna punt. A 36-yard drive culminated in a 1 yard run by Reindel, his 16th score of the season. The defenses took over from there, and it was 14-7 at the break.
It stayed that way exactly 12 seconds into the third quarter. Aidan Endsley, who is not the Rockets normal return man, fielded the second half kick at his 18, broke through the first line of defense and was gone, 82 yards for a score that put the Rockets up 14 again. If that score didn’t break the Blue jays’ backs, Anna’s next play did. After a three and out by Delphos, Endsley took the handoff, made one cut, and was off again, this time 65 yards to paydirt.
Endsley, a 5-9, 177-pound junior, explained how he found himself returning the second half kickoff.
“Our quarterback (Travis Meyer) got hurt, and his backup, (Colin Wuebker) is our kick returner. They didn’t want to risk getting him hurt, so they put me back there. I found the seam and just took off. (Note: Meyer returned and hobbled through the entire second half with a brace on his right knee.)
“In the first half, I was cutting back a bit and the coaches told me to trust the hole,” Endsley continued. “There was a big hole there, and I was just hoping I didn’t get caught from behind” he finished with a laugh.
Marino praised his junior back and his blockers.
“Aidan really ran hard tonight. Burd and Wildermuth (junior linemen Ethan and Abe) got a nice double-team block to spring him on that touchdown run. It was really good to get that kick return and then that run back to back.”
“We probably played our worst half of football this season, and we were only down 14-7,” said Schulte, shaking his head. “Then they score on back to back touches. Our kids showed some resiliency and kept coming back, but when the lights come on on Friday and Saturday nights, someone has to make plays. We didn’t do that tonight.
“We hurt ourselves, but Anna’s a good football team. Give them credit. They played hard and made the plays they had to make to win the game.”
To their credit, the Blue Jays didn’t turn out the lights down 28-7. Reindel, who was held to just about half of his 172 yard per game average, capped 64 and 36 yard drives with three yard runs. For all their misfortune, the Blue Jays were within a touchdown with 4:46 to play.
Yea, that didn’t last long either. Attempting an onside kick, the Blue Jays’ James Garrett hit a one hopper right at the Rockets Reid Lininger, who grabbed it cleanly, eluded one would be tackler, and strolled 48 yards for the clinching touchdown. Endsley added a third score in the final minute for the final score of the night.
Endsley finished the night with 147 yards unofficially on 23 carries, along with the scoring kickoff return. Reindel appeared to be less than 100% most of the night, but managed 91 yards on 19 carries with three scores.
Marino said the win is a big step for his team.
“We have bounced back really well from that loss to Versailles(20-12 at home in week 3). This is not an easy place to play and they are a good team. We have some big games coming up, but we are going to enjoy this tonight.”
Endsley gets the last word.
“This win means a lot, because we really worked hard in the off-season (after last year’s 3-7 record). Losing to Versailles two weeks ago was heartbreaking, because we expected to win that game. We have Marion Local, Coldwater and St Henry coming up. This was a great win for our confidence. We have great team camaraderie, and if we can stay healthy, we can be there at the end. That’s the goal.”