Jackson, defense lead Ada past Bluffton 43-14
Saturday, September 26, 2009 3:43 AM
ADA - When Ada all-state senior quarterback Mitchell Faine went down with a knee injury in the first half the Bulldogs were about to take a 21-0 lead over visiting Bluffton Friday night. A hush went over the big Homecoming crowd at War Memorial Stadium as he writhed in pain near the Bluffton five-yard line, not to return the rest of the night.
Newly-confident, the Pirates used a powerful rushing game to respond with two quick touchdowns and pull within 21-14 at intermission, making it an unexpectedly close contest.
Then like Superman Heath Jackson stepped into the locker room, emerged from halftime and changed his position from standout receiver to QB. In the second half he led Ada on three scoring drives and the defense shut down Bluffton, holding them scoreless and stuffing their run game as the Bulldogs went on to a 43-14 victory.
Alex Weber also had an excellent game with two TD runs and over 150 yards in total offense.
Ada's 15th straight regular season win upped their record to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the Northwest Conference, while scrappy Bluffton fell to 2-3 and 1-2 in the NWC.
Jackson led Ada on a 64-yard march on the key first possession of half two. He completed three passes for 41 yards and his 13-yard keeper moved the 'Dogs into scoring position. But the march stalled so Austin Everhart made a 23-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 24-14 lead with 8:18 to go in the third stanza.
After Brandon Deeds returned the ensuing kickoff almost 50 yards to the Ada 33, the Bulldog defense came up big. Max Yankee's clutch third down sack of Pirate QB Levi Gleason thwarted the possession.
Two possessions later, Ada took complete control with a 69-yard scoring drive. A 31-yard pass from Jackson to Alex Weber ignited the march.
Then on fourth and a long two, Jackson brought the crowd to its feet with a spectacular 30-yard touchdown run up the right sideline to break the game open at the end of the third period. He rolled out right, then accelerated to the sideline. Just as he appeared to be stopped, Jackson sidestepped a would-be Pirate tackler, then outran another defender as he tiptoed down the sideline to paydirt for a 30-14 lead.
A two-point pass off a fumbled conversion snap kept the margin at 16 when Jackson's desperation pass was picked off in the back of the end zone. But even though the Pirates remained in striking distance down two TDs and a pair of two-point PATs, Ada was firmly in control again.
On its next drive Bluffton elected not to go for it on fourth and four and punted, and the strategy worked when Ada fumbled on a counter play. The Pirates took over on the Bulldog 37 but lineman Cody Mattson stepped up with a timely 12-yard sack of Gleason to stop the good scoring opportunity.
However Ada again fumbled on the next drive to give Bluffton another chance near midfield. Yet once more the Ada defense rose up and forced a three-and-out series.
On the next Bulldog play from scrimmage, Jackson rolled left and hit Konnor Baker near the 45. The sophomore shed a tackler and outran the Pirate defense for a 62-yard catch and carry TD. The PAT boot hit the upright and missed keeping the hosts in front 36-14 with 6:13 to go.
On the next purple possession, Weber burst off right tackle and sprinted 65 yards up the right sideline to paydirt to put the game far out of reach. Everhart's PAT kick provided the final score of 43-14 with 4:24 remaining.
The extent of Faine's injury was not known after the game, but he was walking under his own power along the sidelines during the second half and icing it down.
On the first drive of the game, Gleason completed a 34-yard pass to R.J. Stratton. But three plays later Jackson picked off a Pirate aerial. Ada took over on its own 14 and covered 86 yards on nine plays over just 93 seconds.
Faine hit Jackson with a 13-yard pass, then connected with Matt McBride on tosses of nine and 13 yards. Weber then capped the march with a seven-yard scoring run around right end to make it 7-0 with 8:46 to go in the opening period.
Mattson sacked Gleason to help stop the next Pirate possession, and Ada took over on its own 29. Consecutive passes of 11 and 17 yards to Weber moved the hosts into Bluffton territory. Faine ran for seven yards to reach the Pirate five, then scored on the next play when he rolled out left and scored on a five-yard TD run with 57.5 seconds to go in the first stanza. Everhart's second successful extra point kick made it 14-0.
On the ensuing kickoff hustling Aaron Weyer hit the Pirate ballcarrier and popped the pigskin into the air, where it was recovered by Hayden Johnson at the visitors' 18. After an unusual 15-yard penalty vs. Jackson for hurdling over a defender near the goal line, Faine scrambled 12 yards down to the seven but hurt his knee when hit on the play.
After a short delay he limped off the field and was replaced by Baker. Simmons scored on the next play via a seven-yard TD run and Ada led 21-0 with 94 ticks still to go in the opening quarter.
Bluffton seemed to get a spring in its step as they rumbled 80 yards on 11 plays. Tyler Rayl ripped off runs of 28 and 18 yards to ignite the drive.
Gleason then hit Stratton with a 16-yard scoring slant to make it 21-7 with 8:11 left before intermission.
After stopping Faine-less Ada quickly, Bluffton scored in just 23 seconds. Zach Devier burst through the line and rambled 61 yards all the way down to the Ada five. Christian Smith made a good cut up inside and scored on a five-yard run with 4:00 to go in the half, cutting the deficit to 21-14.
Notes and stats
Ada used four quarterbacks in the game: Faine, Baker, Jackson and freshman Gabe Sutton finished the contest, completing a pass to Austin Weber.
Senior Sam Fell was named Homecoming queen.
It was the third Ada win in a row over Bluffton after 12 straight Pirate victories in the series from 1995-2006.
The Bulldogs have now won 20 of their past 22 games and 10 in a row at home over the last two seasons. They have outscored the opposition by a combined total of 276-80 this season. Ada averages 55.2 ppg and allows 16.0.
They were ranked eighth in the AP state Div. VI poll released last week, and fourth in the first computerized region 22 rankings.
1 2 3 4 F
Ada 21 0 9 13 43
Bluf 7 7 0 0 14
Ada visits Paulding Fri.
The Bulldogs (3-0 NWC) continue defense of their Northwest Conference title next Friday with the long trip to Paulding (1-2 NWC). The Panthers edged Delta 20-14 in a non-league game Friday to improve to 2-3 overall.