JEFFERSONVILLE — After playing its “best half” of the season in the first 24 minutes, then receiving a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the third quarter, things were looking great for Jeffersonville on Friday night.
Then the bottom dropped out.
Bedford North Lawrence scored 23 unanswered points to rally for a 23-20 triumph in Hoosier Hills Conference action at Blair Field.
“It’s tough to swallow,” first-year Jeff coach Isaac Parker said afterward.
The first half, though, went down easy.
The Red Devils (3-6, 3-3) scored on their first two possessions thanks to touchdown passes of 3 and 42 yards from Shaun Wimberly Jr. to Gervasio Mitchell en route to a 14-0 halftime lead.
“I would say it’s probably our best half of football overall,” Parker said. “Penalties were light in the first half. We executed, played physical, our defense played phenomenal in the first half, shut down that option. And, our offensive line played well. We pretty much did what we wanted. It was an excellent half of football.”
It got even better when senior Isaac Findley, who ran for 103 yards in the first half, returned the opening kickoff of the second half 77 yards for a touchdown. Although Gafred Altamirano missed the point-after kick, Jeff still led 20-0 11 seconds into the second half.
But it was all downhill from there.
The Stars (3-6, 3-3) answered Findley’s kickoff return with a quick scoring drive that ended with Owen Beaver’s 25-yard touchdown run. Dalton Nikirk’s 2-point conversion pass to Beaver made it 20-8. The Red Devils were flagged twice for 25 yards on that march.
Then, on its next drive, Jeff was flagged four times. Two of those penalties negated touchdowns.
“There were a lot of penalties tonight on that backside,” Parker said. “It’s just unfortunate. We shot ourselves in the foot. … A lot of drives were extended off penalties. A lot of our drives were cut short off penalties for us. We’ve got to fix that."
BNL responded with another quick TD drive — capped off by Nikirk’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Derek Hutchens. Tabin Stillions’ conversion run made it 20-16 with 2:54 to play in the third.
The Devils punted on their next possession, then the Stars embarked on a clock-eating, 18-play, 86-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes. Nikirk’s 2-yard TD run, followed by Sam Cosner’s PAT kick, made it 23-20 with 3:57 to play.
But Jeff didn’t quit. The Devils quickly drove into BNL territory thanks to a 27-yard completion from Wimberly to Mitchell and a 24-yard run by Wimberly. They got as close as the Stars’ 9 before Parker elected to try a field goal on fourth-and-5 with 22 seconds to play.
However, Altamirano’s kick narrowly missed wide right.
“He missed it by about a foot, the official said,” Parker said. “That kind of summed up the second half for us.”
It was a difficult defeat on a night that began on such a high note.
Before kickoff Jeff senior Jeremy Shingleton, a team manager who has special needs, suited up and scored a touchdown.
"It was great," Parker said. "I wish it would’ve ended a little better for him, he was a little bit upset, but man that was fun. That’s what it’s about. It was a rough night overall with the game, but that was phenomenal. On a rough night like tonight that makes you smile.”