Jonathan Alder quarterback JT Keith (2) stretches for a first down against Thornville Sheridan Friday night. Also pictured for the Pioneers is Dawson Detweiler (1). Alder scored 35 unanswered points and beat the Generals, 35-13, in a Division III playoff game. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
If there is one thing that football fans have learned from the past two weeks, it’s that you can never, never count out the
Jonathan Alder Pioneers.
JA had to battle back a week ago to end the regular season with a 24-23 come-from-behind victory over London.
That gave Alder the outright Kenton Trail Division title in the Central Buckeye Conference and ended the regular
campaign with a perfect record.
Friday night’s Division III state playoff game against Thornville-Sheridan wasn’t quite as dramatic.
The Pioneers, however, did have to fight back from a two-touchdown deficit before rolling over the Generals, 35-13, on
What changed for Alder was the night and day difference between its first and second-half play.
The difference was particularly noted on the defensive side of the football.
JA played a softer zone coverage in the secondary during the opening half and paid for it as Sheridan used its aerial
game to set up a couple of second-quarter rushing TDs.
“Josh (defensive coordinator Bope) made some adjustments at halftime and we played more man coverage in the
second half,” said JA head coach Brett Glass. “We didn’t give up the easy passes that we did during the first half.”
There was also a big change on other side of the ball.
“We drove the ball on them and got inside their 30-yard-line four times during the first half,” said Glass. “However, they
held us in check when we did that.”
The teams were like a pair of prize fighters duking it out during the first period.
Both teams found soft spots in the other’s defense.
However, when either started sniffing the end zone, the D units came up with big plays.
JA shanked a punt near the end of the first quarter and gave the Generals the ball on the Pioneers’ 49-yard line with a
little more than a minute to play.
Sheridan quarterback Nathan Johnson passed and ran the team deep into Alder territory as action moved into the
Johnson carried down to the JA two-yard-line.
From there, Jason Munyan bulled into the end zone for the game’s first score.
Logan Ranft booted the extra point for a 7-0 Sheridan lead.
Pioneer quarterback J.T. Keith directed a nice offensive series, distributing the ball to Jacob Fenik and Jackson Izzard.
Fenik and Izzard were needed especially due to the fact the Generals were keying on 1,300-yard plus ball carrier Garret
The Alder senior had to fight for two or three yards at a time up the middle against linebacker Shay Taylor.
“Taylor was intent on shutting down Garret,” said Glass.
The series, which got down to the Sheridan 23, ended when Taylor picked off a pass thrown by Keith.
Thornville-Sheridan took advantage of that turnover for its second touchdown of the night.
The Generals covered a bunch of real estate on the ground by Munyan and through the air from Johnson to a handful of
Johnson connected with Ranft on a 17-yard pass to the JA 28.
Manyan blew through the defense for 24 yards and then finished the series with a four-yard scoring run.
Ranft lined up for the extra point.
Holder Daniel Miller picked up the ball on the fake and began looking for a seam into the end zone.
That gap closed quickly, however, as the Pioneers snuffed out the two-point attempt.
JA, down by a 13-0 margin with 2:23 left in the half, went back to work.
Keith hit Izzard with a trio of passes and also delivered the ball to Fenik and Dawson Detweiler.
A toss to Izzard gave JA the ball on the Generals’ nine-yard-line.
Fenik twisted and spun through Sheridan’s defense until he was brought down a yard from the end zone.
Keith took the next snap and scooted in for JA’s first points.
Dylan Moore booted the extra point that sliced Alder’s deficit to 13-7 with 40 ticks on the first-half timer.
Munyan picked up five yards on a play to run out the clock.
The Generals took the second-half kickoff, but surrendered the ball on a punt after only three plays.
The Pioneers put together another nice drive down the Sheridan 19, but later lost the ball on downs.
JA’s stout defense forced another three-and-out and Thornville punted to the Alder 41.
Proxmire gained a couple of tough yards before Keith hit Izzard with a pass to the Sheridan 46.
The dynamic duo teamed once again, with Izzard making a spectacular catch.
The junior leaped and wrestled the ball away from a Sheridan defensive back.
By the time the Generals were able to bring him to earth, Izzard had given JA a first down a mere five yards from the
Proxmire was battered after a yard gain and Fenik concluded the series with a quick burst into the end zone.
Moore, who has not missed an extra point or field goal all season, gave the Pioneers a 14-13 edge with 2:32 left in the
Sheridan had the ball for only one play as Munyan was hit going into the line.
Alder’s Denver Petersheim was in the right place at the right time to pounce on the elusive pigskin.
The Pioneers, however, couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and lost the ball on downs with less than a minute to play in
the third quarter.
JA’s defense pounded the Generals as action moved into the fourth quarter.
Sheridan had to punt and the Pioneers took over near midfield.
Keith went to Proxmire and Fenik through the air, advancing the ball down to the Generals’ 20-yard-line.
A couple of incomplete passes left Alder facing fourth-and-10.
Keith then made a huge play with his feet, scrambling and stretching his way for a first down at the seven-yard-line.
Fenik padded JA’s lead with the ensuing touchdown.
Moore’s extra point with 7:12 to play pushed the Pioneers out to a 21-13 margin.
The Generals went on the move during their ensuing possession.
Johnson later completed a fourth-down pass to Landen Russell that moved the ball to the JA 25.
Russell, however, was hit and coughed up the pigskin.
Who else but Petersheim was there to recover for the Pioneers.
“This is the biggest game of my career,” said the Alder junior when he came to the sidelines. “However, it wasn’t about
me. The entire team played a huge second half.”
Fenik and Proxmire advanced the ball just over midfield to the Sheridan 49.
Proxmire then found a seam in the Thornville defense, hit it like a bolt of lightning and was off to the races.
The Generals gave chase, but couldn’t catch up as Proxmire widened the Pioneers’ lead.
Moore connected on the extra point that gave JA a 28-13 spread with 1:38 to play.
“They kept me bottled up when I tried to go up the middle,” said Proxmire. “I took the ball on a bit of a reverse and found
As if to add insult to injury, the Pioneers added one more score with less than a minute to play.
Johnson went back to throw and completed the pass … to Alder’s Will Heisler.
The JA sophomore grabbed the ball at the Sheridan 30 and sped into the end zone.
Moore put the exclamation point on Alder’s victory with his final PAT.
The win gave Glass his first playoff win in six seasons at the JA helm.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s the team that won.”
The Pioneers (11-0) will play No. 3 Jackson (11-0) in the regional quarterfinals on Friday.
Jackson clubbed No. 6 Columbus Centennial, 70-28, during another opening-round game.
The JA-Jackson contest will be played at 7 p.m. on a neutral site.
Jonathan Alder’s Chase Maynard (41) and Connor Morgan (51) pursue Thornville-Sheridan quarterback Nathan Johnson (12). Also pictured for JA is Brayden Blain (50). (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
JA’s Garret Proxmire (22) breaks away from a Thornville-Sheridan defender on Friday. Proxmire scored on a 49-yard run during Jonathan Alder’s victory. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
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