ADAMS — South Jefferson got an early season look at the type of team it will be up against if the Spartans try to make a run in the playoffs. Class B West Division opponent Solvay spoiled South Jefferson’s home opener, defeating the Spartans, 40-14.
The Bearcats (2-0) let loose their three biggest weapons: quarterback Brock Bagozzi, running back Jaimen Bliss and wide receiver Blaine Franklin.
Bagozzi was 13-for-24 passing and threw for two touchdowns and 158 yards. Franklin was on the receiving end of both of those touchdowns and finished with four catches for 80 yards. Bliss, meanwhile, did most of the work on the ground, finishing with 213 rushing yards on 27 carries.
Struggling to score throughout the first half, the Spartans (1-1) began to lean on quarterback Austin Mesler’s arm.
By halftime when Solvay led 18-8, the senior had already thrown 19 times, completing eight of them for 107 yards.
While South Jeff put a few solid drives together, it often failed to finish, stalling out on Solvay’s side of the field. Mesler continued to try to make plays with his arm, but struggled due to the wind and the strong Solvay pass rush.
Bagozzi was also very active in the first half. By halftime, he had completed 12 of 22 pass attempts and threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bearcats took an initial lead with 9:49 left in the second quarter and held it for the remainder of the game.
“We found ourself in a situation where we ran the ball effectively and then we killed ourselves with penalties and had to revert to throwing the ball,” Spartans coach Aaron Rivers said.
Mesler connected on a long pass when he found Colden Montague cutting up the middle in final minute of the first half. The play resulted in a 44-yard touchdown and the Spartans’ first points of the game.
Messler finds Montague over the middle for the South Jeff TD. 2 pt pass is good. 18-8, Solvay. 0:17 left in the half. pic.twitter.com/JcyAdyeLIZ— Phil Sanzo (@Philip_Sanzo) September 14, 2019
Mesler finished 12-for-28 overall with 135 passing yards. Having thrown so many times, he was able to pinpoint some specific things to work on going forward.
“Getting the ball out quicker, I mean conditions with the wind weren’t great tonight, the ball was coming back at me,” Mesler said. “But getting the ball out quicker and pre-snap decisions.”
Mesler only threw one interception, and the wind could have played a role in that as well. On a deep pass the ball died in the air and fell short of the receiver.
Despite holding a 18-0 lead at one point in the first half, Solvay went into the locker room up by only 10 points. The game being as close as it was came as bit of shock to the Bearcats.
“It was a scary first half because you’re only up a score and a half, really and anything could happen,” Solvay coach Dan Salisbury said. “We got the ball to start the second half and didn’t do anything with it the first drive. But we had a pretty good defensive stand then scored and scored again. Then you can start relaxing a little bit.”
Solvay’s offensive approach changed in the second half.
After throwing 22 times in the first half, Bagozzi threw only twice in the second half. Salisbury elected to increase Bliss’ workload at running back. The immediate result was a Tyriq Block rushing touchdown on the Bearcats’ first possession of the second half.
This is only the second loss the Spartans have experienced in the past two seasons; they finished 8-1 last year in the developmental league. They’ll have a chance to get over .500 next week when they play Syracuse Tech (0-2) on the road.