The Jasper Vikings advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals with a dominant 41-14 win over Southside Gadsden Friday night at Ki-Ro Gambrell Field.
With the victory, Jasper will now host Mortimer Jordan, who defeated East Limestone 41-9, next Friday night. It will mark only the fifth time in school history that Jasper has advanced past the second round of the playoffs. The last time was a decade ago, losing to Cullman in the third round in 2008.
“It is great that we will get to play at home again next week,” Jasper coach Bryan Moore said. “There is something magic about this place (Ki-Ro Gambrell Field). It is rare to get to host the first three rounds of the playoffs, but it is something that we are definitely happy about.”
The win over Southside Gadsden improves Jasper to 11-1 on the season, and the Vikings have won 11 straight games.
“The way we played tonight is similar to the game against Russellville. Our guys finished tonight in a way that we haven’t throughout the season,” Moore said. “This team continues to work hard, and they deserve the success they are having. We are going to celebrate this win tonight, and we will start preparing for Mortimer Jordan (Saturday).
“At this point in the playoffs, it is the teams that work the hardest who find success,” Moore added. “There are no days off at this point. And it is really special to be playing high school football the week of Thanksgiving.”
Jasper scored on seven of its nine possessions in the game. The Vikings ran for 170 yards and threw for 202 yards. The 368 total yards is below the team’s average on the season, but Jasper started several drives with great field position due to the play of its defense.
“We think the magic number is to have a 50 percent scoring average. If you do better than that, you are probably going to win the football game,” Moore said. “Being able to score on most of our possessions shows how our guys didn’t let up and finished strong.”
The Viking defensive squad had another stellar performance. Southside Gadsden totaled 229 yards with all of those coming on the ground. More than 100 yards was gained late in the fourth quarter on the Jasper junior varsity defense. Jasper also forced and recovered three fumbles in the game.
Jasper was led on offense by Michael Crear. The senior quarterback completed 13-of-20 passes for 202 yards. Crear threw two interceptions and no touchdowns in the game, but he did rush for three scores and 44 yards. Cameron Lambert rushed for 64 yards and two scores, while Kaden Shelton ran for 50 yards and one touchdown. Reed Lum led the receiving corps with two catches for 59 yards.
The Jasper defense forced a fumble on the fourth play of the game. Sheldrick Cherry picked up the fumble, returning it to the Panther 2. Crear scored two plays later to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead with 9:36 left in the first quarter. The Vikings’ defense followed by holding Southside Gadsden to a three-and-out, and Jasper scored only a handful of plays later when Shelton rumbled 15 yards for the score. The Vikings led 14-0 with 4:46 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers battled back on their next drive after a kicking miscue by Jasper gave Southside Gadsden the ball on the Jasper 48-yard-line. Kenneth Bothwell, who ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, capped the short drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-7.
Crear connected with Xavier Waldrop on a 27-yard pass to set up the Vikings next score, which was a 1-yard run by Lambert. Jasper led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Vikings increased that lead to 28-7 by halftime after another score from Crear.
Jasper received the opening kickoff of the second half, scoring in five plays. A 46-yard pass from Crear to Lum proved to be the big play of the drive, and Crear capped it with another short touchdown run. Jasper led 34-7 after three quarters.
The Vikings scored their final touchdown of the night when Lambert bullied his way into the end zone from two yards out to put Jasper up 41-7 with 5:40 left in the game.
Bothwell scored on the ensuing drive with a 52-yard scamper to the end zone to cut the final deficit to 41-14.
Southside Gadsden’s season ends at 7-5.