By Grant Pepper
The Jacks have won as many games in the past two weeks as they’ve won in the past two seasons combined. Both have been close games, coming down to the final minute. Even after losing 11 seniors to graduation, as well as speedy tailback Cory Carter (now at Centerville HS), the Jacks still find themselves 2-0- and there are plenty of reasons why.
With two turnovers after the first two games, and just one penalty in their last game versus Milton Union, the Jacks have been playing mentally-tough football.
“When we don’t turn the ball over it keeps the defense off the field, which keeps them rested,” senior quarterback/cornerback Max Banke said.
Along with a lack of turnovers, Banke and his revamped receiving core have made a splash early in the season. Banke is 19/35 passing (for 242 yards), including four touchdowns.
“I’ve worked on moving in the pocket a lot, and the receivers have been working on finding me too,” Banke said.
Banke’s primary receivers have been sophomore Adam Gallatin (six catches for 82 yards), as well as seniors Chase Randolph and Sam Falter, who each have five receptions and have 110 yards between them.
Banke also believes that “the offensive line has been key,” as the Jacks have been able to break multiple long runs in the first two games. Falter leads the team in rushing with 212 yards on 34 carries, while Banke has 158 yards on 27 attempts.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jacks have been energized by playmaking juniors Austin Payne and Steven Sherk. Payne already has two defensive touchdowns, the first being the first score of the season- a pick-six at Mariemont.
“[Payne’s scores are] big momentum-shifters and confidence-builders, and momentum is huge in high school football,” Sherk said.
Sherk leads the team in tackles with 20 (8 assisted), Payne following with 18 (8 assisted). Not to mention the fact that Banke and Randolph, who both play offense as well, have combined for 23 tackles as well.
Goal-line stands and fourth-down stops have saved the Jacks late in these close games, but so has the kicking ability of newcomer Hayden Peake (a junior), who has yet to miss.
Peake is six-for-six on extra point attempts, and has made a 27-yard field goal as well. In games that are being decided on the final possession, Peake’s perfect kicking has helped get the Jacks over the hump.
“[The locker room feels] excited, better than last year,” Sherk said. “We have more belief than we did last year.”
However, even through all of the positives that have lead the Jacks to their 2-0 start, Banke believes that the team must stay focused.
“We still need to stay focused. We have a lot of tough games left,” Banke said.
The Jacks will face a tough Carlisle squad on the road tonight. In the last two weeks, the Indians have lost to both Franklin and Talawanda by one point each. Kickoff tonight is at 7:30 p.m.