ALGONQUIN – Prairie Ridge barely had touched the football enough to leave fingerprints before it trailed Jacobs by two touchdowns.
Jacobs quarterback Jason Judson was slinging the ball all over the place, and the Golden Eagles played inspired defense, led by linebacker Tyler Heiss’ strip and recovery on Prairie Ridge quarterback Nick Nissen on the Wolves’ first play from scrimmage.
“It was a major gut check,” Nissen said. “We definitely prepared for them as hard as we did any other team. We did a good job pulling the team back together, pulling through and playing Prairie Ridge football.”
Eventually, the defense slowed Jacobs down. Nissen and the offense really got rolling in the second half, and Prairie Ridge prevailed in the matchup of Fox Valley Conference Valley Division unbeaten teams, 35-14, Friday night at Jacobs Athletic Field.
“They came out fired up and we came out a little flat,” Wolves defensive back Corey Barcroft said.
“We knew the offense would put some points on the board. We just had to stay strong and hold them.”
Jacobs (6-1 overall, 2-1 FVC Valley) had a chance to pull ahead, 21-0, in the second quarter on fourth-and-2 from the Wolves’ 15. Wolves linebacker Brad Simms, who missed practice all week with a sprained ankle, came into the game for the first time and helped stop running back Caz Zyks on that play.
“That was a big play,” Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp said. “The kids got a real rush just seeing [Simms] on the field.”
Jacobs coach Bill Mitz thought the fourth-down play was the turning point.
“That was really important,” Mitz said. “We had a lot of momentum there, that’s why it was important to go up 21-0. They got some momentum after that and they’re pretty tough.”
Prairie Ridge (7-0, 3-0) showed why it is ranked No. 2 in The Associated Press Class 6A poll. The Wolves cut the deficit to 14-7 at halftime, then running back Jordan Getzelman broke free on the Wolves’ first possession of the second half for a 70-yard touchdown to tie the score.
The Eagles, ranked No. 10 in Class 8A, held Prairie Ridge the rest of the third quarter and had another opportunity slip away after taking over on the Wolves’ 34. Judson was picked off by Barcroft, who returned the ball to the 34. The Eagles never got that close to scoring again.
“We had to give our best defensive series of the season there,” Barcroft said. “I had a feeling they might run that slant they had run a couple times, so I jumped on it.”
The Wolves, who had the ball for only 6:58 of the first half to Jacobs’ 17:02, rushed for 238 yards in the second half. Fullback Connor Greenwald ran for two touchdowns and Getzelman capped the scoring with a 26-yard run.
Getzelman finished with 148 yards rushing, 140 in the second half, and Nissen ran for 81 and threw for 95. Zyks ran for 93 yards and Judson threw for 118 for the Eagles.
“We haven’t played from behind all year,” Schremp said. “We knew we could come back, but nothing was going our way there for a while. Give Jacobs all the credit. Boy, talk about a team coming out ready to play. This showed a lot about our team’s character.”