LaBrae hosts playoff game even after Friday’s loss

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Colton Stoneman slips through as Tyler Messenger of Jefferson attempts to get in position in non-conference action on Friday night at Falcon Pride Stadium.

JEFFERSON — The LaBrae football team entered Week 10 with a potential home playoff game riding on whether or not it could take care of business against Jefferson. The Vikings left Falcon Pride Stadium not sure of what would happen next after being run over by the Falcons in a 26-7 loss.

After the dust settled, the Vikings (7-3) unofficially stood fourth in Division V, Region 17 according to www.joeeitel .com and, more importantly, in position to host a playoff game next week.

“At this point in the program, we’re beyond moral victories,” LaBrae coach John Armeni said. “We’re fortunate to play again next week, but we won’t be playing long after that unless we correct some of the mistakes we’ve been making the last couple of weeks.”

With Jeremiah Knight carrying the load, the Falcons (5-5) netted 340 yards on the ground and controlled the action for most of the night.

“I think Coach (Jimmy) Henson does a great job,” Armeni said. “His kids came out and played with a lot of passion and hunger. (Knight) is a great running back and he did a fantastic job tonight. I don’t think our kids met (Jefferson’s) intensity. It snowballed from there. When you dig a hole against a team that runs the ball, it’s not a good place to be in.”

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Jeremiah Knight of Jefferson attempts to elude tacklers as Riley McCleary of LaBrae prepares to make the hit Friday night at Falcon Pride Stadium.

“Obviously, giving the ball to Jeremiah helps,” Jefferson coach Jimmy Henson said. “I think (LaBrae) is very fast. We tried to do some things to throw the ball, but they were bringing pressure and they’re very good in man coverage. It was hard to get guys open.

“The guys did a good job up front. It was tough sledding because they were bringing everybody inside. Once we got that lead, we weren’t putting the ball in the air.”

Knight surpassed the 2,000-yard mark for the season in the first half for the Falcons. He is the first Ashtabula County player to surpass the mark and ended up with 280 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

“First, he’s a good kid,” Henson said. “Second, he’s worked his tail off and it’s showed. The other thing is, most guys aren’t four-year players. He’s carried the ball for four years. I think his vision is important. When you carry that many times, you can’t teach that kind of experience.

“He makes so many cutbacks and changes directions and he’s strong. His efforts paid off.”

Knight completed his season with 2,223 yards on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings’ playmakers couldn’t break loose.

“It’s really frustrating,” Armeni said. “That’s not LaBrae football. We haven’t played our brand of football in a couple of weeks, since we beat Brookfield to clinch a playoff spot. We’re playing without a sense of urgency. When you’re playing a good team on its home field, you can’t have a lack of urgency. That’s when bad things will happen.”

Jefferson took a 6-0 lead on quarterback J.J. Henson’s touchdown pass to Jon Jackson with 3:34 left in the first quarter. Knight scored from the one to make it 12-0 with 8:11 to play in the first half. The Falcons missed on both PATs.

The Vikings were in position to answer following a 48-yard strike from Carlton Brown to Tariq Drake to put the ball inside the Jefferson 5, but Brown was intercepted in the end zone. Knight later went on to score on an 89-yard jaunt before scoring a 2-point conversion run for a 20-0 halftime lead.

Arjay Oliver put LaBrae on the board with 1:12 to play in the third with a 7-yard run and the Vikings were again knocking on the door with a drive deep into Falcons’ territory. Another interception ended the possession and kept momentum with Jefferson.

“Those turnovers down in the red zone are huge momentum shifters,” Armeni said. “Give credit to the Jefferson kids. They were making plays. We had a lack of execution. When it’s 20-7 and you have two turnovers down inside the five, you could be talking about a drive to win the game or something of that nature.

“A lot of our wounds were self-inflicted. You can’t do that against a good football team and Jefferson is a good football team.”

Knight sealed the victory with a 26-yard scoring run with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter.