MONROE – In all the years Adams Central has played rival South Adams, it is hard to imagine a victory over the Starfires has ever tasted sweeter.
Fireworks exploded in the field next to the stadium. The student section rushed onto the field. And despite all predictions, Adams Central is heading back to semistate for the second straight year.
The Flying Jets lost by 28 points in the regular-season meeting with South Adams, but on Friday night they halted the Starfires' passing game to win the first regional title matchup between the rivals 19-7.
"Ever. Ever. Hands down, period," an emotional Adams Central coach Michael Mosser replied when asked if this was his favorite win over South Adams. "They're a darn good football team, but all they've been talking about all week is how they're going to beat us. Well, our kids didn't like that anymore. They got it done, and I can't be more proud of them."
South Adams quickly punted to end the first possession of the game, and Adams Central followed by eating up much of the first quarter with a drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown carry by sophomore running back Blake Heyerly.
"The biggest thing, we thought, is that they weren't looking for the dog fight like we were," Adams Central senior quarterback and defensive back Dallas Schwaller said. "They were thinking that since they came in and won by 28, they thought they had it in the bag. Their heads are high. And our biggest thing was to knock them off their high horse."
The Starfires flew down the field and replied two minutes later when senior running back Nic Stuber ran 3 yards for a touchdown that evened the score at 7.
South Adams reached the red zone twice more in the half, but one drive ended in a fumbled recovered by Adams Central and the other in a turnover on downs after an apparent touchdown was called off as the refs determined the receiver was out of bounds.
Adams Central had the ball first in the second half and effectively gobbled up the clock, taking 7 minutes, 30 seconds to score on a 5-yard run by Heyerly. The extra point missed, so the Jets took a 13-7 lead.
The Jets regained the ball soon enough and once again held possession until 6:31 in the fourth, when Heyerly scored for the third time on a 1-yard carry. The 2-point conversion failed to put the score at 19-7.
If the game wasn't over yet, it was when Schwaller picked off Starfires quarterback James Arnold. The junior passer completed 61.7% of his passes for an average of 271.6 yards per game this season, but on Friday he completed just 13 of 36 passes for 180 yards and an interception. Meanwhile, the Jets rushing attack out-gained South Adams by 214 yards to 38.
"We talked this entire week about everyone just doing their job. No one do more, no one get burnt," Schwaller said. "Our d-line, they got to Arnold, and that's the biggest difference from the first game to the second game."
Heyerly ran for 160 yards on 33 carries.
"When Dallas took that knee and the time started running down and we were up on the scoreboard, that's when it finally sunk in that we had won," Heyerly said. "And it felt awesome."