Jefferson City capitalizes on errors to down Capital City

Jefferson City wide receiver Kendric Johnson returns a punt during the second quarter of Friday night’s Central Missouri Activities Conference game against Capital City at Adkins Stadium. (Collin Yung/News Tribune)

Jefferson City pulled out all the stops against the Capital City Cavaliers on Friday night at Adkins Stadium in Central Missouri Activities Conference play.

The Jays recovered a trick-play onside kick, took deep shots down the field on offense and continuously switched up their defensive fronts, helping them pick up a 34-21 victory against the Cavaliers.

“I thought scheme-wise, we had a pretty quality scheme,” Jefferson City coach Damon Wells said. “We absolutely changed some things up. Absolutely nothing was the same as last year. Our kids played physical, they played tough.”

Capital City captured the early momentum with a three-and-out defensively, and the Cavaliers had first-and-goal from the Jays’ 7-yard line three plays later after a 34-yard run by Evan Schaffer on a quarterback keeper.

But the Jefferson City defense stood tall, stopping Schaffer on the 2-yard line for a turnover on downs.

“We came out, they stopped us, but we could never get going,” Capital City coach Joe Collier said. “We had to fight for every inch we were gonna get.”

The momentum really switched after Capital City was forced to punt early in the second quarter from its own 8, though.

Phillip Richardson punted it 26 yards on a couple bounces to the 34, where Kendric Johnson scooped it up and reversed field to return it all the way to the Cavalier 3.

Four plays later, Kantrell Jordan ran in a toss play for a 1-yard score to put the Jays up 7-0 with 8:59 left before the half.

“Huge,” Wells said. “It’s like getting a turnover down in that area. It was just a great performance, great execution from the entire unit.”

Jefferson City was not content.

The Jays sent out two kickers, Jacob Wilson and Johnson, for the ensuing kickoff. Wilson faked an onside kick right, and Johnson came back and kicked the ball left. Tavien Davis recovered the ball at the Capital City 46 for the Jays.

Three plays later, Wilson found Johnson down the middle on a post route for a 35-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 14-0 with 7:35 left.

“We knew it was two quality teams and it could come down to a couple chances,” Wells said. “We were willing to take those chances.”

Capital City did not go into the half quietly.

The Cavaliers got the ball back with 4:31 left in the half at their own 14. They used two big runs, a 44-yarder from Schaffer and a 32-yard run from Richardson, to get down to the Jefferson City 3. Jaylen Thomas cut his team’s halftime deficit to just 14-7 with a 2-yard touchdown run two plays later.

“We wanted it in spurts, but that wasn’t enough,” Collier said.

Capital City received the second-half kickoff and faced another key fourth-down situation seven plays into the drive.

On fourth-and-2 at the Jays’ 27, Schaffer tried to keep another option play and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for another turnover on downs.

“We were able to switch up our fronts and give them different looks so they weren’t able to get a consistent feel for what they like to run against,” Jefferson City linebacker Colton Ketchum said.

Jefferson City capitalized this time, driving 73 yards in eight plays and punching in a touchdown on a 34-yard run from Bradarious Lewis. Johnson’s extra-point attempt missed and the Jays’ lead stayed at 20-7 with 4:05 left in the third.

The Cavaliers answered again by taking advantage of a short field. Capital City drove 52 yards in six plays and cut their deficit to 20-14 with less than a minute left in the third on a 5-yard run by Schaffer.

The Jays did not let the momentum shift for long. Jefferson City put together an eight-play, 65-yard drive and punched in another touchdown on a 6-yard sweep to Zach Barnes to increase the lead back to 27-14 with 9:22 left.

“That was fantastic,” Wells said.

After consecutive scoreless drives, the Cavaliers got the ball back on their own 20 following a touchback with 5:27 left.

But their drive was short lived. Jefferson City was able to hit Schaffer in the middle of the handoff attempt and forced another fumble. Kane Fuelling scooped the ball up at the 16 and ran untouched for a touchdown to increase the lead to 34-14.

“That was pretty special because this game meant a lot to a lot of kids, and Kane was one of them,” Wells said.

Capital City was able to put together a scoring drive in 21 seconds to keep itself in the ballgame.

Schaffer hit Thomas for a 13-yard screen on the first play, and then hit Richardson on another screen the following play, who ran 45 yards for a touchdown to cut his team’s deficit to 34-21 with 5:00 remaining.

The Cavaliers got the ball back with 3:16 left following a three-and-out, but their comeback bid was stopped there as their drive ended with a turnover on downs at their own 35.

Jefferson City was able to take one knee to end the contest.

“We didn’t play hard, we didn’t play hard,” Collier said. “They played harder than us.”

Schaffer led the way for Capital City with 94 rushing yards on nine attempts and a touchdown, while also completing 7-of-13 passes for 76 yards with another score. Thomas finished with 93 rushing yards on 16 attempts with a score and added two catches.

Jefferson City was led by Lewis on the ground with eight rushes for 57 yards and a score. Wilson finished 5-of-9 passing for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Next Friday, Jefferson City (3-2, 2-1 CMAC) hosts Hickman (0-5, 0-4 CMAC) and Capital City (3-2, 2-2 CMAC) plays at Class 5 No. 4 Helias (4-1, 3-0 CMAC).