JEROME — Minico and Jerome have both thrived off shutting opponents’ offenses down this season. But when the two teams — with a combined total of four shutouts between them — finally played each other Friday night, they lit up the scoreboard.
Minico came out with a 41-21 win on the road to move to (4-1) on the season, while Jerome fell to (3-2).
“We talked about it all week that the toughest thing is to go on the road and win,” Minico coach Keelan McCaffrey said.
The Spartans got up early on Jerome and looked primed to run away with the game. Tazyn Twiss returned an interception for a touchdown on the first possession of the game, then went ahead 14-0 on a 22-yard touchdown run by Rylan Chandler.
But then Jerome’s offense started to come alive. Quarterback Jarom Wallace and receiver Garrett Elison built a strong connection, as the duo hooked up for eight completions for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. Elison caught a two-yard score on a play fake to cut the lead to 14-7 and added a 15-yard scoring reception later in the quarter.
Minico’s offense was rolling too, though. Led by senior running back Rylan Chandler, the Spartans scored 27 points in the first half. Chandler finished the game with 24 carries for 196 yards and three touchdowns.
He had 119 yards in the second half. Minico did not punt in the first half, but turned the ball over on downs once and headed into halftime with a 27-14 lead.
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Jerome forced Minico’s only punt of the game at the start of the second half, then drove to the Spartans’ 25-yard line before losing a fumble. The turnover proved to be too much to overcome for the Tigers, who never cut any more into the deficit.
“Our rhythm was off in the second half,” Jerome coach Sid Gambles said. “We were trying to get into a play-calling routine, and we had one going in that first drive, but then we fumbled and they had the ball for the majority of the quarter, and that gets you out.”
Minico went on a 14-play drive, but Jerome stopped them at the one-yard line and started another drive. Boone Bierman intercepted a pass by Wallace and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
“For us, we just had to get better at communicating, and when we get better at communicating, our defense gets better,” McCaffrey said of his team’s second-half improvement. “We want to play as a unit and run to the football.”
The only major breach in the Spartans’ defense was in the second half of the game on an 85-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to Stockton Lott — when the game was already out of hand.
Gambles said he was proud of how his team rallied after starting the game so poorly.
“That was a horrible way to start a rivalry game, but we battled to the end and I’m super proud,” he said. “We had a lot of guys that had to step up in key spots. Minico is a good team and we knew it was going to be as physical of a game as we’ve had all year. We’re going to have to use the ice machine tomorrow morning.”