Sometimes it takes adversity to show a team just how good it is.
That was certainly the case Friday night when top-ranked Jordan found itself down 14 points to one-win Cottonwood at halftime. The Beetdiggers gave up three interceptions and kept committing drive-killing penalties on offense.
But Jordan rallied behind star sophomore quarterback Austin Kafentzis and punt returner Tyler Swan in the second half to escape with a thrilling 35-33 victory over Cottonwood that ultimately came down to two failed Colt two-point conversion tries.
"Hats off to Cottonwood," said Beetdigger coach Eric Kjar. "They played phenomenal. And it took us a while to get going."
That was an understatement.
With Colt star quarterback Cooper Bateman and an inspired defense leading the way, Cottonwood dominated the first half. Bateman hit Gabe Hosea on a 20-yard scoring pass and added another 62-yard scoring pass play to Inoke Lotulelei.
Lotulelei also contributed a 1-yard scoring run.
But Hosea went out with an ankle injury right before the half and Lotulelei suffered a head injury early in the second half, limiting what Cottonwood could do on offense.
"You can't play in the second half with two or three of your best players with injuries on the sidelines," said Cottonwood coach Greg Crowshaw. "That's why I tried to go for two for the win. I have to give the guys who came in all the credit in the world. They battled their tail off. But you have to give Jordan credit. They found something that worked and stayed with it."
What "worked" was the running of Kafentzis, who simply took the ball and ran in the second half, shredding the Colt defense for big gains.
In a 21-point third quarter, the young Jordan quarterback ran for four and 11-yard touchdowns. But it was a 78-yard punt return by Swan that put the Beetdiggers in the lead for good.
"Some of that was my fault," said Kjar of his team's first-half struggles, that included the three interceptions. "I was going after too much stuff after the last game. I needed to be a little patient as a coach and continue to be patient with our run game. I was being too aggressive. I was proud of my kids. Our kids were not sure what to do [when they fell behind], but I was real happy with the way they responded."
Cottonwood certainly didn't fold. Rallying behind Bateman, a talented quarterback and fine leader, the Colts rallied twice in the fourth quarter. Bateman hit Sione Moli for a 25-yard score with 8:18 to play. Croshaw elected to go for two but was stopped short.
When Jordan responded with a quick 80-yard drive with Kafentzis racing 10-yard for a score, you figured Cottonwood would fold.But the Colts marched right back to get a 5-yard touchdown pass from Bateman to Moli with 2:07 to play. Jordan's Zack Robbins batted away the potential tying two-point conversion pass, and the Beetdiggers simply ran out the clock.