WAVERLY – Without question, the matchup between Jackson and Western Brown could be billed as a game for the ages on Friday in the Division III, Region 11 semifinals.

Both teams spent the night throwing punches and counterpunches.

But in the end, the Broncos delivered the big blow, outscoring Jackson 14-7 in the fourth quarter and winning the rematch, 35-28, at Raidiger Field in Waverly.

“I thought, for the most part, we played well, but we didn’t make enough plays when we had to,” said Jackson head coach Andy Hall. “It is a small margin of error when you get to this level, and you have to execute. They executed a few more times than we did, and they came out with the seven-point win.

“To hold them to 35 points and just two touchdowns in the second half were incredible. No one has done that this season. We have held them to two of their lowest scoring games of the year. Offensively, we just didn’t get it done.”

The Ironmen lost to the Broncos 33-28 in an earlier meeting on September 10. Like that first matchup, mistakes and missed opportunities again plagued the Ironmen, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The biggest momentum killer on the night was ultimately penalties for the Ironmen. Five of the nine penalties Jackson committed were by the offense – including one that erased a 55-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jacob Winters in the second quarter because of a personal foul penalty. Though Jackson had a first-and-10 at Western Brown's 23-yard line, the drive stalled after the Ironmen turned the ball over on downs.

In the second quarter, a 43-yard drive put Jackson deep in Western Brown’s half of the field. But the drive stalled at the WB 18, as the Ironmen once again turned the ball over on downs.

The Ironmen also failed to capitalize on two opportunities awarded to them by the defense after Western Brown quarterback Drew Novak threw a pair of interceptions in the first and third quarters.

“That was four opportunities. When you play against a team like that, who does not punt, you must score,” said Hall. “We intercepted him twice. He had only six the entire year coming in, and we didn’t score off either one of those turnovers.

“If we could’ve got ahead of the chains and got ahead on the scoreboard, we now force them to have to make plays, but we didn’t do that.”

Both quarterbacks put on a show, as Winters threw for three touchdowns for Jackson. He completed 6 of 14 attempts and finished with 111 passing yards. He also had 116 rushing yards on nine carries.

“Jacob made some great throws and some big runs for us tonight,” said Hall. “Unfortunately, he had the one touchdown run called back, but he played his heart out.”

Tristan Prater had three receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown, while Brodie Butcher caught two touchdown passes for Jackson.

Eli Broermann also stepped up in the absence of sophomore running back Cade Wolford, as he finished with 106 rushing yards and one touchdown on 23 carries.

On the other side, Novack torched Jackson’s defense, finishing with 422 passing yards on 30 completions with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Broncos quarterback also rushed for 72 yards and a score on 24 attempts.

“He is number one in the country for a reason,” Hall said about Novak. “We had him dead to right at times tonight, but he got out, and you can’t cover forever.

“He is averaging over 400 passing yards per game this season.”

Dylan Novak hauled in seven of Drew’s passes for 106 yards and one touchdown, while Logan Campbell had six catches for 102 yards and a score.

The Ironmen got off to a quick start, scoring on its opening drive of the game, as Winters found Butcher for a 22-yard touchdown.

However, Western Brown failed to answer, as Grant Mastin intercepted Novak and returned it 35-yards to midfield.

The Ironmen, though, was held to a three-and-out and was forced to punt.

Following the lone punt of the game, Zachery Chrisman capped off a 6-play, 73-yard drive with a three-yard dash into the end zone late in the first quarter to tie it at 7-7.

Jackson was quick to respond, as the Ironmen needed just six plays to retake the lead on Butcher’s second touchdown catch of the game on a 14-yard pass from Winters.

Novak completed 3 of 6 passes on Western Brown’s next drive, and Chrisman cashed in with a six-yard touchdown run to make it 14-14 with 6:43 to go in the half.

With just over a minute left in the first half, Western Brown took the lead for the first time on a two-yard touchdown run by Novak.

But the Ironmen responded with a two-play, 70-yard drive that took 34 seconds off the clock when Prater made a catch on a hitch route and went 53 yards to tie it at 21-21 going into the break.

The teams combined for 67 plays and 565 total yards of offense in the first half.

Jackson attempted to slow down the game in the third quarter and play old-fashion Ironmen football.

“We tried to milk the clock in the second half. There were 67 plays ran in the first half alone. That’s fine for them because they platoon, but we don’t,” said Hall. “We were tired at halftime, so I told the offense we needed to slow this thing down, and I thought Jacob did a great job of watching the play clock and managing the offense.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Western Brown regained the lead on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Drew Novak to Dylan Novak with 10:03 left in the fourth.

Nevertheless, the lead did not last, as the Ironmen grounded out an 8-play, 61-yard drive, culminating in a three-yard touchdown run by Broermann.

The Broncos came right back with an eight-play, 70-yard drive, including a 26-yard pass from Drew Novak to Dylan Novak on fourth-and-2. The Broncos’ quarterback capped the drive two plays later with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Logan Campbell to take a 35-28 lead with 1:51 remaining.

With 1:49 remaining, Jackson began its ensuing drive on its 27-yard line. Two plays later, Winters was stripped of the ball, and Western Brown recovered it at Jackson 23.

However, the Broncos would turn the ball over on downs, giving Jackson the ball back for one final drive at its 16-yard line with 9.5 seconds left.  But Winters would fail to complete two straight passes as the game ended.

“When you play against a team as good as them offensively, you have to execute,” said Hall. “It's frustrating, but it was a great game. The fans got their monies worth tonight.”

Jackson allowed 495 yards to Western Brown, 422 which came through the air. The Ironmen finished with 346 yards of total offense, including 111 passing and 235 rushing.

The Ironmen finish out its 2021 campaign with a 10-3 record overall. Western Brown (11-2) will advance to the regional finals next week to face top-seeded Granville, who defeated London 15-14 on Friday.

It was the final game for 14 Jackson seniors, including Mastin, Prater, Xander Karagosian, Drew Bragg, Jake Malone, Holden Blankenship, Ty Jones, Hunter Webb, Caeleb McGraw, Hayden Bice, Shawn Woodyard, Cody Shrefler, Levi Woolum, and Evan Spires.

“The seniors laid the blueprint for this, but tournament play is brutal. At the end of the day, only one team is going to be happy in the playoffs,” said Hall. “But I am so proud of the year these kids had and the things we were able to accomplish. This senior class is one of the best I’ve ever had, and they will be sorely missed.

“They have been role models in our community, our school, and in our football program.”

The Ironmen should be back in this same position next season, as they return plenty of experienced and talented players to the roster in 2022.