SHORTSVILLE — It’s hard to save the best for last when a team enters a championship game with an undefeated record and an average margin of victory of 40 points, but the Red Jacket Indians did just that.
On Saturday in the Section V 8-Man Championship game against Pembroke (7-2), Red Jacket played its finest game of the season, winning by a jaw-dropping score of 82-6.
Red Jacket had run all over opponents throughout the season and they reached 68 points twice in the regular season. All systems were firing on all sides of the ball all game long for the Indians, who held up the championship trophy around 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
“So proud of all these guys, one through 18, they all just worked their butts off for the last two months,” Red Jacket head coach Josh Henninger said after the game. “They reap the benefits. I’m just so proud.”
In the third game of the season, Red Jacket beat Pembroke 68-18, and it seemed that RJ couldn’t get any better than that as it was its largest margin of victory and the most points the team scored all season long.
Led by running back Logan Keifer, the entire Red Jacket team ran perfect plays all game long. Keifer, named Most Valuable Player, scored seven touchdowns and ran for 425 yards on just 15 carries.
When asked if it ever gets old watching Keifer torch the field for a big touchdown run, coach Henninger had a big smile.
“Absolutely not!” the coach said with a laugh. “Nothing gets old. He’s a phenomenal player, phenomenal leader and a phenomenal person. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
The way Keifer carries himself and the ball seems like he runs downhill with reckless abandon, but not so much. Keifer’s mindset is a unique one and works well for him.
“I play nervous throughout the entire game,” Keifer said holding the MVP trophy. “I think every single time I touch the ball I’m a little scared because mistakes can happen, anybody can come back. (Pembroke) came back from 30-0 and they won the game. That’s just amazing.”
That mindset that Keifer carried with him alongside his fellow seniors allowed Red Jacket to do perhaps the hardest thing for teams that dominate all year: Don’t take any play for granted and don’t lose focus.
“Honestly, it was the seniors,” coach Henninger said. “We talk about finishing all the time and that was the theme for the week: to go out and finish, and the seniors led that. The seven seniors are nothing but great leaders. That’s the reason why we came out like we did today.”
Pembroke led time of possession in the first quarter as Red Jacket ran just three plays and scored two touchdowns before the end of the first quarter.
When Keifer didn’t receive the direct snap in the Wildcat formation, it was junior Kyle Damore behind center and in every single play on defense. One minute into the second quarter, Damore ran a pick-6 back 62 yards to the house to give Red Jacket a 22-0 lead. Damore ended with 11 tackles.
Keifer ran for three more touchdowns in the quarter and with the score 42-0 at the half, the championship was all but decided when the two teams came back out for the third quarter.
Ethan Lenney had eight tackles, three recovered fumbles and 38-yard scoop-and-score in the second half. Kyle Damore’s brother Andrew had seven tackles including a sack and an interception.
“We made very little mistakes. We had the turnovers but the bet thing about it was that was it: we let it go afterwards. Great heart by these kids. It was our best game,” Henninger said.