Wildcats win division title with victory over Sparta
The Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team won the Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference Mississippi Division title outright with a 46-14 win over host Sparta last Friday night.
“That was our goal,” A-J football coach Brett Detering said about winning the title.
“It was something our kids wanted – to finish up and make sure we were the only one to be conference champions.”
The Wildcats improved to 8-0 overall and finished conference play with a 5-0 mark.
This was the first time since 2007 that a Wildcat team coached by Detering had captured a title outright. Detering is in his 21st season as head coach of the Wildcats. His teams shared conference titles in 2000 and 2006.
It didn’t take the Wildcats long to get rolling against Sparta.
“The kids went out and did what they had to do early on,” Detering said.
After the Bulldogs were forced to punt on their opening drive, A-J took over near midfield and the Wildcats began rolling.
Four plays later, Arieh Hart scored on a 9-yard run.
Sparta was offsides on the extra point kick and Wildcat fullback Jayce Turner scored on a conversion point run.
A-J led 8-0 with 5:55 remaining in the first quarter.
Following another Bulldog punt, the Wildcats’ Hart caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryce Osman on the first play.
Jaryt Tripp kicked the extra point and A-J led 15-0 with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs then drove deep into Wildcat territory but failed to convert on a fourth down.
A-J took over and Turner capped a 9-play drive, that was fueled around a 29-yard pass to Damian Chrisp from quarterback Bryce Osman, with a 5-yard TD run.
Tripp’s kick boosted A-J to a 22-0 lead with 7:58 remaining in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs failed again on their next drive to convert a fourth down on an incomplete pass.
In three plays, running back Sheldon McGrath scored his first TD of the season on a 3-yard run.
Tripp’s kick boosted A-J to a 29-0 lead with 5:07 remaining in the first half.
The Bulldogs’ Nate Meierotto dropped back to punt and fumbled the football and McGrath recovered deep in Sparta territory.
Four plays later, Osman scored on a 7-yard run.
Tripp’s kick boosted A-J to a 36-0 advantage with 2:39 remaining in the first half.
The Bulldogs moved down field and Meierotto attempted a field goal that was blocked and Hart recovered.
Five plays later, McGrath made a 32-yard field goal.
A-J then led 39-0 with 5 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Wildcats fumbled and lost the ball on their opening drive of the second half.
But the Bulldogs were forced to punt and A-J was on the move again.
Turner capped a 7-play drive with a 43-yard TD run.
Tripp’s kick boosted A-J to a 46-0 advantage with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats crossed the 40-point scoring margin and a continuous clock began to run for the rest of the game.
“The clock keeps going then and we were able to rest some players,” Detering said.
Detering said that the biggest thing for his squad as it heads into the playoffs “is staying healthy and keeping away from injuries.”
A-J began substituting freely the rest of the way.
Sparta quarterback Carlos Keen then connected with Ostyn Connors on a 55-yard TD pass after two plays.
Meierotto’s extra point kick pulled the Bulldogs to a 46-7 with 3:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Keen connected with Connors again for another 55-yard strike early in the fourth quarter.
Meierotto’s extra point kick closed out the scoring with 9:12 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats had 249 yards of rushing offense. Turner led the way with 134 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Hart had 48 yards rushing on 6 carries. Chrisp had 37 yards on 2 carries.
“They really tried to stop our running game,” Detering said. “But we had different guys get in the endzone.”
McGrath scored a TD on a run and added a field goal. Hart scored twice on a run and a pass reception.
Osman was 2 of 4 passing for 75 yards. Hart had a 46-yard reception on one pass and Chrisp had 29 yards on the other.
Sparta’s rushing attack was limited to 43 yards. Sparta posted 322 yards passing; however, a lot of those yards were against the reserves.
“We gave up some big plays, but overall I was satisfied,” Detering said.