WILLIAMSBURG - The defending state champion Briar Jumpers opened their season with 40-8 victory over the Whitley County Colonels on the road last night.
Although a good opening win for the Jumpers, Somerset head coach Robbie Lucas saw plenty to work on. When asked about the performance coach Lucas said While coach Lucas was critical because he wants to see their peak potential, there were plenty of positives as well.
Before leaving the game with injury midway through the third quarter, senior quarterback Kaiya Sheron threw for 133 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, and 1 rushing touchdown. Sheron did not check back into the game after an ankle injury, but Lucas said he did not believe it was too serious.
Sheron led the team to a 21-0 lead before he left, but sophomore backup quarterback Josh Gross stepped up and played well too. Gross finished the game with 121 passing yards, and 2 touchdowns.
"We feel really good with Josh Gross," said coach Lucas. "We feel like he can come in and play. Obviously, he showed he could. What I like about the kid is he runs our offense within itself. He doesn't expand it, and that's a good thing because when we get our timing routes and things like that, we're a pretty good offense."
Junior running back Chase Doan was used as the primary back against the Colonels and rushed for 97 yards.
The Briar Jumpers lost a lot of offensive weapons last season, but numerous new faces stepped in to fill those roles. Doan, a transfer from Southwestern filled the running back position well, and junior wide receiver Gavin Stevens, who did not play last year, looks to make a great pair with star receiver Kade Grundy.
In his debut, Stevens had 64 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Grundy had a 109 yard, and 1 touchdown performance. As the season progresses, these two could be a very dangerous duo.
At the start of the game, Whitley received the kick, but their drive came to an end pretty quickly, and the Briar Jumper offense wasted no time getting down field.
On Somerset's first offensive play, Grundy torched Colonel corner Aaron Steely, and Sheron hit him in stride for a 51-yard gain. Steely just barely stopped Grundy from taking it all the way.
Doan helped take the ball into scoring position with a pair of nice gains on the ground, but the Jumpers were pushed back because of false starts two plays in a row.
On third and sixteen from the Whitley 19-yard line, Sheron tossed it to Stevens in the right corner of end zone, and Stevens snagged it over Steely for his first touchdown. Junior kicker, Christian Whitis sent in the point after, and Somerset led 7-0.
On the Colonel's second drive, the Briar Jumpers defense had three tackles for losses throughout their drive. One was by sophomore linebacker Jerrod Smith, and the other was by senior defensive back, and first year football player Jackson Cooper. These led to Whitley eventually turning the ball over on downs early in the second quarter.
However, the Colonels were able to stop the Jumpers as well and the defenses went back and forth getting stops early in the second quarter.
With under five minutes left in the first half, after a big gain by senior Ricky Gilmore and a carry by Doan, Grundy took a screen pass, made several defenders miss, and broke a tackle for a 44-yard touchdown.
Late in the quarter, senior Jumper linebacker Mikey Garland sacked Colonel quarterback Petrey Caden to give Somerset an opportunity to score before halftime.
On the start of that drive, Whitley linebacker Cameron Taylor sacked Sheron to put them in a third and long situation. However, Sheron saw an opening and took off for a 33-yard gain on the ground for a first down.
Carries by Sheron, and Smith took the ball inside the Whitley 5-yard line, and Sheron finished the drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown to put his Jumpers ahead 21-0 at halftime.
After the break, Somerset worked the ball deep into Whitley territory with carries by Doan, Smith, Sheron, and sophomore Guy Bailey. Sheron hit Stevens in the endzone, but unfortunately it was called back on an illegal receiver downfield call.
Sheron was then sacked by senior linebacker Tanner Gilbert to force a field goal attempt. Whitis just missed the field goal, and the Jumpers came up empty handed on a promising drive.
Somerset got the ball back very quickly though. They forced a three and out, and a weak punt gave the Jumpers the ball at the Whitley 19-yard line.
After carries by Doan and Bailey, and a completion from Gross to Stevens, Jerrod Smith powered the ball 6-yards for their first score of the second half late in the third quarter. The failed point after attempt put the game at 27-0.
Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore Guy Bailey intercepted Caden to give his Jumpers the ball in Whitley territory.
On the first play of the drive, Gross hit Stevens in stride for a 37-yard touchdown to give Somerset a 34-0 lead.
The Colonels spoiled the shut out chance early in the fourth quarter after working the ball up field with completions in the flats, and Gilbert scoring from 9-yards out. Mason Croley carried the ball in for a successful two point conversion putting the game at 34-8.
Somerset got one last score midway through the fourth after screen passes to Grundy, and Gilmore, as well as carries from Doan put them deep in Whitley territory. Gross punctuated the drive with an 8-yard passing touchdown to junior transfer tight end Michael Hawkins.
"This is our first game out, so I'm a little critical," said coach Lucas. "We simply need to go back to the drawing board. This will be a good film session for us."
With the win on opening day, the Briar Jumpers with take a 1-0 record to their first home game where they will face of with the Williamsburg Yellow Jack Jackets next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.