SEDALIA — Jefferson City's season this fall has been about establishing stability and taking steps forward.
The team took its biggest step forward Friday with its first win, a 49-0 blowout victory against Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
It was also the first win at the school for coach Damon Wells, but that's not at the front of his mind.
"It's not about me," Wells said. "I'm not trying to build a resume."
It is the first step in a period of the season where the schedule lightens up a bit for the Jays, and this win gives them a performance to build off of for the next couple of weeks with games against more CMAC competition.
"We're just trying to teach the habits that are required to be successful on Friday night, and then later on in life," Wells said. "We're learning to win, we're learning to compete, we're learning to be successful."
David Bethune had 150 yards on 10 carries to lead the Jays ground game once again, but he was joined by a series of contributors. Kevion Pendelton stepped in for the injured Will Berendzen at fullback and ran for 114 yards on 10 carries while Jacob Wilson stepped in for the injured Zane Wings at running back for 55 yards on seven carries.
"I think more important than just sheer number of kids, it is vitally important that we have selfless kids," Wells said. "We never have kids that complain about the number of touches or number of carries or number of yards. We just want to move the football and be successful and tackle people and win games."
Those were the three main threats in the running game but Hayden Wells also got a pair of scores on the ground to put the game to bed for good in the fourth quarter. In total seven players got carries for the Jays while Ryan Tadsen also caught both of Wells' pass attempts for 38 yards.
The depth at the running back position shined for the team and shows that they can withstand the losses of Wings and Berendzen, two starters over the first two weeks at fullback and running back, and still be effective on offense.
The offensive line also looked strong, getting a big push off the line of scrimmage to give the series of rushers space to operate. The unit also had a smooth week that was key in the Jays winning the turnover battle. The only turnover was a fumble by Pendelton where he ran for over 50 yards but was caught from behind and a player punched the ball out. At that point, the Jays already were in control of the game up 27-0.
That was the only blemish for an offense that scored on every other possession with near-perfect timing and a lot of misdirection in the run game. Those were both staples of the game last week, but the lack of turnovers showed another step up from the offense's impressive display last week. The team was plus-two in the turnover margin, its best mark of the year in its first game without multiple turnovers.
"We challenged the kids before the game to try and do a better job taking care of the football," Wells said.
It was continued improvement on the offensive side of the ball, but the biggest jump happened with the defense that flipped the script after allowing a season-high 49-points last week to pitching a shutout Friday.
The run defense was smothering, with the defensive line getting good penetration and stuffing the run game. Without starting defensive tackle Brodie Smith, the interior defensive line was still dominant in ways it hadn't been over the first third of the season.
Linebackers made a lot of big plays. In the absence of Berendzen at linebacker, Ethan Garnett, Jackson Figo, and Cohen Davis all made big plays with Seth Brooks keeping contain on the outside and making a couple of plays as an outside linebacker.
"I think that anytime someone can't play, while that's tragically unfortunate, it just gives another young man an opportunity," Wells said. "I thought kids that got opportunities tonight definitely made the most of it."
After dropping an interception last week against Rock Bridge, Figo got some redemption by getting an interception at the end of the second quarter. A couple of drives earlier, Davis and Brooks pounced on a fumble. Pendelton also got his second pick of the season in the second half.
The Jays smothered Tigers quarterback Bryan Anderson, who rarely had anywhere to go on option plays or when he dropped back to pass. The defense combined that positioning with improved tackling, something Wells said has been an emphasis the past couple of weeks with the team charting missed tackles from previous weeks.
"I believe missed tackles are directly correlated, directly correlated, to the number of points allowed and I thought we tackled really well tonight. We were physical," Wells said.
The Jays next step is a crosstown matchup with Capital City at 7 p.m. Friday at Adkins Stadium.
"It sure seems like the CMAC is brutally difficult," Wells said. "So we'll get back to work and try to make it happen again."