With 2020 being the year it has been, starting the football season off with a lightning delay should have been expected, but the weather did not put a damper on the Jasper Vikings as they picked up a 30-20 win over Mars Hill in their season opener at Ki-Ro Gambrell Field.
The game marked the first career head coaching victory for Jasper Coach Philip Baily.
“I’ll take that one,” he said. “Why would we have ever thought we would get through a season opening in 2020 without some kind of delay or something strange happening? That is a good win for us. Mars Hill may be in Class 2A, but they are a team that can compete for a state championship. They are a good football team, and our guys did what they had to do to fight and earn that win.”
Senior defensive back/running back Mayson Slaughter made an impact all over the field on the night, picking up 10 tackles, intercepting a pass and running it back 106 yards only to drop the ball just before entering the end zone, recovering a fumble and rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Standout players on the Vikings’ defense included senior linebacker Connor Whitley who led the team with 12 tackles. Sophomore defensive back Cole Sargent had nine tackles. Senior defensive back Curtis Cavett picked off one pass, while Brodie Woods recovered a fumble.
Jasper was led on offense by junior running back Treyvon Stewart, who rushed for 122 yards and two scores on 17 carries. Jaden Caldwell, also a junior, ran for a score with 14 yards on three carries.
Sophomore quarterback Spencer Rosenfeld completed 7 of 16 passes for 103 yards, with his favorite receiver being senior Hayden Yerby, who caught two passes for 62 yards.
“We had a lot of guys who were in new roles tonight,” Bailey said. “We didn’t play great. We can certainly be better, but the team stepped up when it needed to do so. That is what I want to see. We are a team.”
Mars Hill caught the Vikings’ defense on its heels on the first possession of the game, driving 56 yards in a handful of plays, with the drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run from Justus McDaniel. A two-point try failed, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead early in the game.
Jasper answered with a 36-yard field goal from Preston Reed to cut the lead to 6-3 with 7:54 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings took their first lead of the night with 10:30 left in the second quarter after Stewart burst free for a 36-yard touchdown. Jasper led 10-6 after the Reed extra point.
Jasper held that 10-6 lead at halftime, which is when lightning in the area caused a more than hour delay. The Vikings opened the second half with a 60-yard, 9-play drive that was capped by an 8-yard touchdown run from Mayson Slaughter. Jasper led 17-6 with 9:35 left in the third quarter.
Mars Hill answered back on its next possession when Peyton Higgins scored from six yards out. The extra point connected to cut the lead to 17-13.
Jasper pushed that lead to 30-13 after scores from Caldwell late in the third quarter and Stewart early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers scored with 22 seconds left in the game on a pass from Higgins to Aiden Kennedy to cut the final deficit to 30-20.
Jasper will now travel to Cullman next Friday to continue the long-standing rivalry between those two schools. Jasper has played Cullman 71 times. The Vikings lead the series 35-34-2. Cullman won the first meeting in 1920, while Jasper picked up the latest win in the rivalry in 2019.
“Everyone in Jasper knows how important that rivalry is, so I don’t have to say much about it,” Bailey said. “Cullman always has a quality team, and we have to go to their place. I’m excited to get to coach in this rivalry, and I’m sure our players will be fired up to play that one.”