Jays get heat-shortened win over Stars

FLORISSANT, Mo. — The Jefferson City Jays and McCluer North Stars moved the start of Saturday’s game from 1 p.m. to 10:30 a.m. to avoid the heat.

An hour earlier might have done the trick.

With Jefferson City (1-0, No. 10 in Class 6) leading 24-7 early in the third quarter, a pair of McCluer North administrators drove onto the field in a golf cart as the Jays were preparing to run a play. After talking with both coaching staffs and officials, the remainder of the game was called off due to a heat index of 105 degrees.

The game stands with Jefferson City picking up the victory by that 17-point margin.

Missouri State High School Activities Association rules state practices or contests must be postponed or rescheduled if the heat index is above 105 degrees. After both coaching staffs talked it over, the game was called off. Temperatures were in the upper 90s at the time.

“We both agreed at that point,” Jays head coach Ted LePage said. “We would have come back, but (McCluer North head coach Jim Schottmueller) didn’t want to press the issue. He just said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to play next Friday night, and there’s no point in bringing you all back down here again.’”

Both LePage and defensive coordinator Ron Cole said they don’t remember a game being called off because of heat. Other than a few cramps, there seemed to be little in the way of heat-related issues.

LePage said he wanted a five-minute halftime instead of the normal 20-minute time frame in order to speed things up. But that didn’t happen, and shortly after the start of the third quarter, the game was called.

“That’s something the state and doctors have decided and we’re going to live by what’s safe,” LePage said.

III

Before the game was called, Jefferson City found a way to keep its offense cool with short, quick drives.

Jefferson City’s offense stayed off the field for extended periods of time thanks to four scoring drives of less than 40 yards ,as the Jays scored 24 unanswered points.

Jefferson City’s scoring drives started at McCluer North’s 35, 26, 15 and 40-yard lines. Special teams on both sides of the ball had a hand in the field position.

“That is unbelievable,” LePage said.

Jefferson City kicker Gabe Marcantonio consistently pinned the Stars back in their own end with deep kickoffs. The Stars began their offensive drives from their own 20 five times, their own 22 once, and once at Jefferson City’s 43.

And McCluer North, which was 3-6 last season, couldn’t snap the ball cleanly to its punter, as two snaps went over his head. Another was almost blocked and went just 15 yards.

“We were dominant on special teams,” LePage said. “That really helped us in the game.”

However, it was McCluer North that looked like an offensive machine in the game’s opening minutes.

Stars quarterback Demetrius Robinson capped off a 10-play, 78-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Harry Ballard to put the Stars up 7-0 just more than four minutes in. The opening drive included a 45-yard completion on third down that kept the drive alive. Robinson was 5-for-5 on the drive and completed his first nine passes of the game.

“We’ve got some new players in the secondary and there was just an alignment issue,” LePage said. “It was that simple.”

Jefferson City’s defense settled down after that. McCluer North reached Jefferson City territory just twice the rest of the game. One of those came after McCluer North recovered a punt after it hit a Jefferson City player in the back.

After his hot start, Robinson finished the game 15-of-27 for 160 yards.

“Our kids could have right then panicked, they didn’t,” LePage said.

The Jays proceeded to score on their next four possessions.

Following the Stars’ touchdown, Jake Pridgin returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the McCluer North 35-yard line. Marcantonio scored six plays later on a 15-yard run to tie the score at 7.

Jefferson City took a 10-7 lead on a 32-yard field goal by J.T. Bohlken with less than a minute left in the first quarter.

A bad snap on a punt put the Jays at the Stars’ 15-yard line. Two plays later, Marcantonio connected with Pridgin for a 12-yard touchdown to make it 17-7.

After a short punt, the Jays capitalized again. This time Pittman ran it in from 3 yards out to put the Jays up 24-7 late in the first half.

“Our players started to relax,” LePage said. “I think that was huge, showed good character out of our players.”

Marcantonio ran for a score and passed for another in his first career start at quarterback. He finished 5-of-11 for 49 yards, while running back Eljiah Pittman added a touchdown and 86 yards rushing on 14 carries.

“They kept leaving gaps open,” Pittman said. “And they were playing a 30-front most of the time, so we kept running the same play and I kept getting yardage out of it.”

Coming into the game there were questions on how four new starters on the offensive line would hold up. LePage was more than pleased as they opened up holes for Pittman.

“Gave up one sack. Outside of that, we maintained great line surge all day,” LePage said. “We were very pleased with that.”

McCluer North outgained the Jays 180-138, but that proved irrelevant as the Jays used field position and special teams to control the game.

The Jays, who got a sack from Hayden Strobel, open the home portion of their schedule at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Belleville (Ill.) East.

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