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Cougars run out of gas at wrong time

November 19, 2005|By CURT HORNBECKER

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - It was the worst possible time for the high-octane Jefferson offense to become its own worst enemy.

The top-seeded and previously undefeated Cougars gave away most of the big plays Friday night, dropping a 27-19 decision to 10th-seeded University in the quarterfinals of the West Virginia Class AAA football playoffs.

Patrick Burns, who had thrown just four interceptions all season, more than doubled that total to account for five of the six Cougars turnovers, effectively keeping their own offense off the field.

The Hawks (9-3) ran 63 offensive plays to just 43 for Jefferson (11-1).

"That was the game plan," said University coach John Kelley, "to keep their speed guys off the field and control the clock. My kids weren't intimidated. They felt all along like they could beat these guys, like they had played teams that were just as good this year."

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Despite its sputtering offense, the Cougars managed to stay within striking distance, but three fourth-period turnovers thwarted any hopes of a Jefferson comeback.

Meanwhile, Cory Jackson, University's 241-pound fullback who has signed a letter of intent to the University of Maryland, kept the Hawks' offense in business with 163 yards on 28 carries, including a 52-yard TD run that gave them a 14-0 lead.

That margin didn't last long, though, as Ryland Newman - held to a season-low 76 rushing yards - scampered 45 yards to close the gap to 14-7 midway through the second quarter.

"We felt like we could come back in the second half," said Jefferson coach Richard Mills. "We had been in that situation before, and felt like we could still come back and win it."

Instead, University made it 20-7 on a 33-yard pass from Justin Hostetler to Cary Hess with 4:08 left in the third period.

Less than two minutes later, Burns found Bo Boutcher on a 6-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to seven at 20-13.

Jefferson made it 20-19 midway through the fourth quarter when Christopher Armel blocked a University punt into the end zone, where Nathan Lancaster fell on the lose ball.

The Hawks punted on their ensuing possession, but a Garet Bishop interception set up a five-play, 43-yard march with Adrian Smith carrying the final 15 yards to cap the scoring.

One final, desperation drive for the Cougars in the waning seconds ended with a Benjamin Waldron interception on the Hawks 15-yard-line that allowed University to run out the clock.

"The kids gave it everything they had," said Mills. "The breaks just didn't go our way tonight, and University played a good game."

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