Four turnovers doom Tigers in 34-0 loss

Jordy Stoller picks off a Bluejay pass in the first half of the Tigers' home opener Friday at Jug Brown Stadium
By Jason Schock
Falls City started the opening drive of its first home game of 2014 on its own 35 and less than 90 seconds later had the ball inside Class C1 second-ranked Ashland-Greenwood’s 10-yard line Friday night at Jug Brown Stadium. Not 30 seconds later, it was 7-0 Bluejays. Three minutes after that: 13-0. After another two minutes: 20-0 visitors.

The Tigers eventually gained 311 yards of offense, but turned it over four times and failed to get on the scoreboard, losing 34-0. Senior Brenden Heckenlively rushed 15 times for a game-high 109 yards and senior Jordy Stoller rushed 10 times for 93 yards, caught three passes for 49 and also recorded an interception in the losing effort.

As the first half came to an end, Falls City, 2-1, looked up at a 27-0 deficit against last year’s state runner-up.

Playing at Jug Brown after opening the year with blowout victories at Lincoln Lutheran and Fairbury, the Tigers, playing without question its most imposing opponent on the ’14 regular season schedule, came out firing. Senior Jack Hartman (eight carries, team-high 46 yards rushing in the first half) gained seven yards on first down, then Heckenlively went for two more, setting up third-and-one at the 39. Ten Tigers, facing north on the Thomas Field turf, flowed hard left toward the west sideline – but the 11th man, Stoller, went right, taking an inside hand-off on the reverse and hit the gas, nearly taking it to the house before being dragged down inside the A-G 10. Too bad he didn’t find the end zone, because a holding penalty on first down forced FC to throw and Tyler Craven picked off Hartman and returned it to the A-G 43. On its first play from scrimmage, the Bluejays used trickery of their own and Cory Washburn, on a reverse pass, hit Ben Stille for a 57-yard TD.

FC’s ensuing drive saw senior Weston Witt run for 10 yards and a first down, but with fourth-and-two from their own 38, Derek McCann set up deep to punt, but the snap sailed over his head. First down Bluejays on the Tiger 16. A line pass to Trevor Nichelson, on third-and-nine from the FC 15-yard-line, gave A-G first-and-goal at the five. Two plays later Nichelson plunged in from the one. The point-after kick was no good, but the punch to FC’s collective gut had landed – neither the team nor the crowd would catch its breath for a long while.

A Craven punt return set A-G’s next drive up at the Tiger 20 and three plays later Ryan Schuster scored from the one. Stille’s point-after made it 20-0 before the first quarter had come to a close.

Stoller made a tremendous play on a Bryce Chudomelka pass at the Tiger seven-yard-line to thwart the Bluejays first scoring threat of the second quarter, but with 5:42 to play in the half, the senior QB (5-of-10 passing in the first half for 61 yards) threw a picture-perfect 22-yard fade to Washburn in the east corner of the north end zone and Stille’s PAT kick gave Ashland the 27-0 lead it would eventually take into intermission.

In the second half, A-G marched 84 yards on its second drive of the third quarter, capped by an eight-yard TD run by Nichelson (12 carries, 54 yards, 2 TD).

The Tigers return to Jug Brown next Friday to face Douglas County West (1-1 entering Friday’s game against 2-0 Raymond Central). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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