Sometimes, you get the lion. Others, it gets you.
Last week, it was the leopard, or in the case of the Jefferson Falcons, make that plural, as they were knocked off, 47-32, on the road against the Liberty Leopards in an All-American Conference clash Friday night.
As they prepare celebrate homecoming against Newton Falls on Friday night at Falcon Pride Stadium (7, WFUN), Falcons coach Jimmy Henson preferred to praise Liberty rather than to criticize his squad. A lost fumble, three interceptions and an early 22-0 deficit proved to be too much for Jefferson to overcome.
“They were about what we thought they were,” he said of Liberty. “Our mistakes early put us in tough position, but give Liberty credit. They created and capitalized on opportunities.”
A myriad of things went against Jefferson (3-2, 1-2) last week, leading to its second loss in a row after opening with three successive victories.
“We got in a hole real early on punt return for a touchdown, a fumble, and a pick 6,” Henson said. “Our kids fought hard all night to get back into the game we just weren’t able to get back to under 14 points.
Jefferson did put up 32 points, quarterback Tony Chiacchiero throwing an area season-high four touchdown passes — of 56 and 15 yards to Jacob Hamilton, of 12 yards to Kyle Ashburn and of 15 yards to Joey Baitt — and tailback Scott Davidson scored from 2 yards out.
“I am very proud of the way the guys fought all night.” Henson said. “They never gave up and kept trying to find a way to win.”
The Falcons will need more of the same this week against 1-4 Newton Falls squad, which took it on the chin at Champion last week, 34-14.
First-year coach Jon Culp’s squad opened with losses to Ravenna Southeast, 55-26, at Brookfield, 59-12, and to visiting Norton, 49-35, before toppling still-winless Girard in Week 4 for its first triumph, 27-14.
The Tigers, who will be making their first visit to Jefferson since the two teams played to a 6-6 tie on Saturday, Oct. 6, 1923, run a spread offense and a 4-2-5 defense. Newton Falls and Jefferson have played only one other time — an 8-7 Tiger victory that came in Week 11 of the 1986 season at Newton Falls. That game was slated to be played in Week 2 of that season, but was postponed because the Newton Falls teachers were on strike.
Henson said first and foremost, his Falcons must contain Brandon Fuller. The Tigers’ junior quarterback threw for 168 yards and had a 62-yard touchdown run at Champion last week. Senior running back Chris Gregory had an 8-yard touchdown run for the Tigers, who were held scoreless for three quarters by the Golden Flashes.
“(Fuller) is their best playmaker,” Henson said. “(Gregory) is a tough physical player. He runs hard and plays very tough on defense (as a linebacker.”
Senior middle linebacker Nathan O’Connor (shoulder), junior two-way lineman Michael Hussing (knee) and junior running back/defensive end Keston Schwotzer (wrist) are day-to-day for the Falcons, according to Henson, while junior two-way tackle Ryan Cooney (knee) will not play Friday night.
Now in his eighth season at the helm at Jefferson, where he is 34-41 (.488), Henson has a good idea what his Falcons must do to move to win for the fourth time in six games.
“Play assignment football — their QB does a lot of zone read-type plays and we have attack both their quarterback and their running back,” he said. “We must run the ball effectively to set up our passing game.”
Though perhaps expecting at least another win at this point of the season, Henson believes his team can catch fire, much like his 2011 squad did after starting 1-2, then reeling off six consecutive victories to vault it into playoff contention.
“We thought we could have a better record, but I am very happy with the way the kids have played,” he said. “We have continued to improve all year and expect to this week, as well.”
3-2 Falcons will play host to Newton Falls for homecoming clash Friday night
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