Jonathan Alder quarterback Preston Eisnaugle (10) pitches the ball back to Jamie Dye during Friday’s 21-7 victory over Marion Harding.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
High-flying offenses usually thrill football fans.
When you get down to the nitty-gritty, however, it’s generally defense that wins games.
The Jonathan Alder Pioneers came through with a stout defense Friday evening and it was especially needed during a 21-7 victory over Marion Harding.
JA coach Brett Glass admitted his offense didn’t play its best game. However, he couldn’t say enough about his “D.”
“Our defense had a couple of big stands in the first half and we made a lot of stops tonight,” he said. “We needed that since our offense played badly in the first half.”
The Presidents (1-1) got deep into Pioneer territory twice during the first half, but came up empty-handed.
Harding’s first series of the game drove down to the JA 14 before it had to settle for a field goal attempt.
A bad snap from center thwarted the play and returned possession to the Pioneers.
JA could not get anything going on offense and punted on its two possessions during the opening period.
Harding was stopped again on a series that went down to the JA 24 and the home team regained possession late in the period.
The Pioneers’ first scoring drive was capped eight plays into the second stanza on quarterback Preston Eisnaugle’s 24-yard pass to Bryan Blacka.
Ethan Gordin’s PAT gave JA a 7-0 lead.
After an exchange in punts, the Presidents started from near midfield and moved to the Alder 35.
The series was halted, though, when Brennan Blain intercepted a pass thrown by Harding QB Noah Thompson.
“That was a huge interception,” said Glass.
The Pioneers could not capitalize on the turnover, losing the ball on downs.
Harding, however, returned the ball on a punt.
JA started on a short field from the Harding 40.
A pass from Eisnaugle to Dalton Potts picked up 17 yards.
Jamie Dye tallied 12 yards on two carries and then finished the short series with an 11-yard burst through the Harding defense.
Gordin’s PAT pushed JA out to a 14-0 advantage.
The Presidents couldn’t move the ball and surrendered it on another punt.
Eisnaugle then went to a knee to end the half.
Harding took the second-half kickoff and wiped nearly seven minutes off the clock in punching in its lone touchdown of the game.
Kollin Hill, a bruising, 220-pound fullback, pushed JA’s defense back on its heels during the drive. He finished it with a one-yard plunge into the end zone.
Savion Tyler’s extra point cut the Presidents’ deficit in half at 14-7.
The Pioneers mounted their own clock-killing drive, using up the final five minutes of the quarter to move all the way down to the Harding four-yard-line.
Dye, who rushed for 105 yards, concluded the series on the first play of the final period, toting the ball in from four yards out.
Gordin’s extra point stretched JA’s margin to 21-7.
Both teams swapped punts and another Harding series ended when Blacka intercepted a pass.
The Harding turnover gave Alder possession of the ball with slightly less than six minutes to play.
The Pioneers, who will take their 2-0 record to Clearfork on Friday, buttoned up their offense and kept the pigskin on the ground.
JA advanced down to the Harding seven-yard-line and then took a knee to end the game.
Glass said the Pioneers ran the ball well later in the game, praising the efforts of Dye, Drew Begin and Drew Myers.
“We’re only as good offensively as our line,” he said. “We relied on our defense and our late running game. The guys didn’t panic when Harding pulled to within 14-7.”
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