The Dream Season Has Come To An End


Juan Santillian

Junction City players shake hands with the Derby players

Jayden Davis, Staff Writer

Friday the 13th certainly cast its spell last Friday night. Unfortunately, the team that had been cursed was our very own Junction City Blue Jays.

It was a clash of two titans at Al Simpler Stadium. The best defense in the league, Junction City hosted the second best offense in the league, Derby.

Both stands were filled with fans from Junction City and Derby, bringing an excitement to Al Simpler Stadium that we haven’t seen all season.

This was the second year in a row Junction City has made it to the Sectionals round of the playoffs where they lost to Lawrence Free State last year.

Unlike last year, Junction City came into the game undefeated and hosted the Derby Panthers, who won it all two years ago. JC came into the game following a very convincing 56-21 victory over Hutchinson.

As both teams took the field the energetic crowds erupted, giving this game the playoff atmosphere Al Simpler Stadium has previously lacked and needed.

JC-DT2Juan Santillian

Derby came out firing on the first drive of the game when highly rated Quarterback Brady Rust from Derby brought the offense downfield with his very strong running ability. He finished off the drive with a rushing touchdown of his own less than two minutes into the game.

Junction City also pushed their offense downfield with the help of season leading rushers Jovon Baldwin and Raye Wilson gaining many yards in bunches. The Derby defense made a stand in the red zone forcing JC to throw the ball on 3rd down that resulted in a highly questionable pass interference no-call. This gave Derby the ball inside their own red zone.

Like the Derby defense, Junction City again let them run down the field in bunches of yards but stopped them in the red zone forcing a field goal that put Derby up 10-0 quickly.

The next drive, Junction City brought some excitement to the crowd with a deep pass from Ryan Hennington to Dylan Collette, completely changing sides of the field for the offense. This however only motivated the Derby defense as they made another critical stop forcing a turnover on downs with the help of the secondary keeping the Blue Jays receivers from getting open.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Derby’s high powered offense put JC in an even deeper hole with a touchdown by the number two threat on Derby, Brody Kooser making the score 16-0.

This was something unseen to this Blue Jays team, letting the opponent go up 16 to nothing, especially so early in the game. An even scarier sight to see was the frustration between the JC defenders on the sideline after the touchdown.

The Blue Jays offense however stayed calm on the field after a deep ball was thrown by Hennington to Wilson bringing the Blue Jays into the Derby red zone. This hookup put them in position to finally score when Jovon Baldwin finds a hole in the Derby Defensive Line and gets into the end zone, putting JC on the scoreboard 16-6 after the missed PAT.

This touchdown brought life to the Junction City defense that, on the next drive, put Derby in a 1st and 35 situation. Derby was however, able to overcome the 25 yard offensive setback.

Despite this defensive lapse, they were able to finally stop the Derby offense to give JC the ball.

Junction City needed something to bring the momentum on their side in the waning minutes of the first half. They pulled out a trick play where the ball was snapped to Baldwin, expecting the run, the Derby defense quickly blitzed, leaving majority of the defensive backs in one on one situations. Baldwin threw the ball deep which was a rare occasion to see. An even more surprising sight to see, was the receiver of the ball, Hennington who made a great grab to secure the ball.

This play did not lead to any score by JC but did end up in a takeaway by Derby putting them in bad field position with just over a minute remaining in the half. This bad field position tempted Derby to go for a deep pass in hopes of getting a final score going into halftime. Brady Rust had seen a height advantage on the sideline which looked to be the perfect opportunity for the big play they wanted. Despite the height mismatch, Walter Wadford was able to make a jumping interception with 56 seconds left in the half.

This interception however, did not lead to any scores. The halftime score was 16-6.

The second half started out well for the Blue Jays as they got downfield with a strong running game capping off the drive with a six yard run by Wilson, thanks to a roughing the kicker penalty by Derby. This brought JC back into the game down 16-13.

Junction City lines up against Derby
Juan Santillian
Junction City lines up against Derby

After Derby quickly came back with a touchdown of their own by a reception on a corner route into the end zone, Hennington threw an interception on what was a very predictable play; a play called multiple times in previous drives.

Despite the interception, the JC defense did not allow any scores off the turnover, which helped Junction City bring the score back within three as they scored on a corner pass deep into the end zone as well, making the score 23-20.

The game changer that had a huge momentum change that began to stretch out Derby’s lead occurred on the next drive. The Junction City defense finally was able to lay a hit on the Derby runner forcing a fumble, but before any Blue Jays could snatch the ball, Kooser grabbed the ball and took it to the end zone with only Willie Mabry close behind. This brought Derby to a ten point lead, 20-30 at the beginning of the 4th quarter.

The Friday 13th bad luck spell wasn’t over yet, as on the next Junction City drive, the Blue Jays were robbed of a possession after a very questionable penalty was called on the receiving team on a punt return.

This gave Derby the ball deep into Junction’s side of the field. They capitalized on the JC turnover when Rust was able to break through multiple tackles and find the end zone to put JC in a three possession deficit, 37-20 with under eight minutes left in the game. This put fear into the fans of the Blue Jays, knowing that getting three offensive possessions in under eight minutes is extremely difficult.

Raye Wilson sittin gon the sideline.
Juan Santillian
Raye Wilson sittin gon the sideline.

The most emotion shown after this was on the sideline when Junction City football legends, Head Coach Randall Zimmerman and his son, former Blue Jay State Champion Ty Zimmerman looked at each other with frustration after the PAT kick was made. Ty Zimmerman had been in these same Junction City uniforms when he helped beat Derby in 2008 in his playoff run.

After a great reaching catch by Raye Wilson down the sideline into the end zone, Brady Rust had broken free of the JC defense shrugging off tackles, scored on a 23 yard run with just under two minutes remaining. This made every stomach in the JC stands drop, followed by many fans leaving the game early.

The play that finished off the game was Raye Wilson’s fumbled handoff into the end zone giving Derby the two point safety, bringing the score to a final 27-46. Derby kneeled the ball bringing the game clock down to zero and for the first time this season, the away stands were cheering victorious in Al Simpler Stadium, putting an end to Junction City’s dream season.

Junction City players on the sideline
Junction City players on the sideline

This team gave Junction City a season to remember after pouring their hearts into defeating every team in their path including a magical game in Cico Park that brought the beloved Silver Trophy back to Junction City. We will all be waiting for next year’s Blue Jays team when the Friday night lights are back on in Al Simpler Stadium.