Jackson Heights hosts Valley Heights in district clash

By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Oct 12, 2017

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Valley Heights coach Tony Trimble believes his Mustangs and Jackson Heights have multiple commonalities, including “old-school, smashmouth” principles. Valley Heights is run-heavy behind its triple option attack with veteran offensive coordinator Lew Whitson, who developed the look during his time at Onaga.

Jackson Heights coach Caleb Wick, a former Smith Center player under legendary coach Roger Barta, incorporates the wishbone scheme the Redmen have ran for decades.

Each squad averages at least 341 rushing yards a contest. Both have multiple running backs with big numbers and start a young quarterback: Valley Heights freshman Cameron Beardsley and Jackson Heights sophomore Cooper Williams.

Jackson Heights has outscored teams 246-20 and stands fourth in scoring offense and first in scoring defense in 2-1A. Valley Heights has a collective margin of 286-132 with the second-ranked offense. Jackson Heights has the second-softest strength of schedule in the class, better than only Valley Heights, according to Prep Power Index.

This Friday, Jackson Heights (6-0, 2-0) plays host to fifth-ranked Valley Heights (6-0, 1-0) in a critical Class 2-1A, District 2 contest. It marks the first of several key matchups in a district that includes traditional power Centralia (4-2).

This marks the sixth straight season the teams have matched up. Jackson Heights holds a 3-2 margin. Valley Heights won 26-22 in district play last year, a victory that propelled the Mustangs to the district runner-up spot behind Washington County.

“We look in the mirror, that’s the kind of team that we feel like we are – going to line up and be physical with people, we are going to try to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football,” Trimble said. “We are going to run power plays, and that’s what they do, and so it’s going to be a tale of basically two teams that are very similar with each other because we have played each other a lot of years now.”

Valley Heights sophomore Cole Coggins has delivered a surprising season with 989 rushing yards and 15 scores. Senior Jordan Yungeberg had 913 yards in 2016. This year, he has tallied 745 yards and 16 scores.

“I knew Cole would be a pretty good back for us some day,” Trimble said. “I didn’t expect it to happen this soon. I didn’t expect him to be as good as he is right now as a sophomore. He kind of surprised us almost as much as he has everybody else.”

In Week 3, Valley Heights won 46-13 versus Christ Prep. In its other five contests, Christ Prep has permitted just 59 points, including a 12-6 loss last week to Jefferson County North, a top-five 2-1A team.

“The offensive line does a great job of getting off and getting into people and creating holes,” Trimble said. “When you have a triple option and defenses try to figure out who has got the ball, they slow down quite a bit. They’ve got to play disciplined football, and then when you get them to start guessing, they create big gaps.”

Trimble, in his 13th year with Valley Heights, credited his veteran offensive line. Senior tight end Harrison Blaske and senior center Dalton Joseph were first-team all-league picks in 2016. Both have played well this fall.

Junior guard Allen Tryon and tackle Brady Trimble, each returning starters, created a formidable right side of the line. Wick labeled the Mustangs an “offensive juggernaut.” Brady Trimble, the team’s leading tackler, and Blaske have led the defense at linebacker.

“What they run is difficult to prepare for with their uneven, funky splits, their motions that they do, the formations that they run,” Wick said. “But you can count on that they are going to be low when they come off the ball, they are going to be physical when they come off the ball, and they are going to run exceptionally hard. They are a tremendous football team.”

Valley Heights has lost three starters for the year, including senior Bryan Yungeberg.

“Fortunately, we feel like for us, our offensive line is still intact and that always gives us a chance to be successful,” Trimble said.

Yungeberg played slot back in 2016 and was expected to start at quarterback this fall. He broke his thumb two days before the first game and returned to slot back. His thumb healed, and Valley Heights considered switching him back to quarterback. Then, he dislocated his shoulder in practice, needed surgery and is done for the year.

“Freshman quarterback is never an exciting thing to think about,” Trimble said. “But Cameron has done a very adequate job for us up to this point, and the thing that I really like about Cameron is he is very, very coachable. He seems to be picking things up quicker than most freshmen do in our system. He is getting better every game, and that’s all you can ask for.”

While Valley Heights has captured each win by at least 30 points, Jackson Heights has one close victory. The Cobras earned a key 16-14 conference win versus Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Week 4.

“Some people look at our schedule and look at our league and they might think we don’t play anybody or we haven’t played anybody up to this point,” Wick said. “For me, I think really our league is better than it was last year from top to bottom.”

Maur Hill took the lead in the fourth quarter. Jackson Heights, which starts two freshmen and a sophomore on the offensive line due to injuries, responded with a touchdown and two-point conversion from senior Brady Holliday and held the Junior Ravens scoreless the last half of the quarter.

“With some freshmen and sophomores, they might wilt away and just quit or get scared and not perform the way they should, but our kids faced adversity,” Wick said. “…I think that’s been the real turning point up to this point.”

In its double tight-end, predominantly pistol look, Jackson Heights has junior Lane Thomas at left end, freshman left tackle Taylor Wamego, senior left guard Tyler Wendroff, freshman center Colby Doyle, senior right guard Garrett Kilpatrick, sophomore right tackle Carson Williams and senior right end Braden Dohl.

Kilpatrick took over for sophomore Riley Watkins, a returning starter and the team’s best lineman early. Watkins has been out with a nerve problem in his back since Week 2. Williams has emerged as the offensive line’s leader.

“Just so proud of the kids and the mental maturity that they have,” Wick said. “Because they go into some of these ball games and they are physically not mature compared to some of the seniors and juniors that they face during the course of the year.”

“Coach Barta always said in big games and stuff, it’s not about how hard you hit,” Wick added. “It’s all about the fundamentals, and doing the right things and the little things correctly, and that’s what we have been harping to these kids, and they have been up to the task so far.”

Holliday has led the Cobras with 100 carries for 856 yards. Senior Sebastian Butto has 58 carries for 492 yards. Butto played sparingly the first two contests and delivered 21 carries for a team-best 129 yards in the Maur Hill win.

The Cobra defense is predominantly based on Smith Center’s longtime 4-3 look that the Redmen have with veteran defensive coordinator Brock Hutchinson. Jackson Heights uses more of a 4-4 because of their linebacking strength.

“Defense is more of a mindset and a lot of it has to do with how we prepare,” Wick, in his sixth year as the Cobra’s head coach, said. “While at Smith Center, Brock always had the great scouting reports, great tendencies on what they are going to do before they do it, and I feel like we have embraced the philosophy just from me learning from him.”

After he didn’t see any varsity time as a sophomore, junior Conlan Bruggeman has emerged as a big surprise at middle linebacker. He ranks second in tackles behind Holliday, a returning starter at linebacker. Wick called Bruggeman the team’s hardest hitter and emotional leader. Junior Austin Mock, a previous backup, has stepped up on the defensive line.

After forcing five turnovers in a Week 1 win versus Maranatha Academy, Jackson Heights has just six in the last five contests. None of the first-month opponents had more than 201 yards in a game, and the Cobras have shut out its last two opponents.

“We have tackled great, we have pursued well, we tackle as a football team, we tackle as a unit,” Wick said “… Our run gaps have been great to this point, and we just have not been able to get that turnover.”

Since the start of the ’15 season, Jackson Heights leads all current 2-1A squads in scoring defense at 11.5 points allowed a game, better than powers Smith Center (12.1), Meade (14.0), Colgan (14.1) and Olpe (15.5), among others.

“We get our kids very, very prepared before the game even starts, and then when you have a great idea on what teams are going to run, you can fly to the football and you don’t have to think,” Wick said. “You are reacting and just not thinking and then reacting, so I think our kids have been a step, step and a half ahead during the course of these past two years.”


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