After outscoring their previous two sectional opponents 127-6, the Triton Trojans had the difficult task of defeating North Judson for the second time this season in Friday night’s 1A Sectional 41 championship game. Despite a quick start, the Trojans were unable to come up with the stops it needed, falling 33-7.
The Trojans began the game in dominant fashion, forcing a key turnover on the first North Judson drive of the game. After the Blue Jays did well to move the ball down the field, the Triton defense came up big when it mattered most. On a fourth and short play, a large group of defenders swarmed the ball and stopped the runner short of the line to gain to get the ball back with the Blue Jays threatening near the red zone.
The good times kept on rolling after the turnover on downs. On Triton’s fourth offensive play of the game, quarterback Cole Shively was able to connect with receiver Dante Workman on a deep ball. Workman was able to get past his initial defender and ended up being tackled at the one-yard line after the 60-yard gain. Two plays later, Shively would punch it in himself on a sneak up the middle five minutes into the game.
North Judson struggled to get anything going offensively on its next drive and gave the ball right back. On offense once again, the Trojans were able to pick up some decent yardage using Shively’s legs, but would eventually punt themselves.
In the opening minute of the second quarter, North Judson set up to punt once again after another drive went nowhere. The snap was mishandled and the punt never got away, giving Triton a massive opportunity, getting the ball just outside of the red zone. What followed was perhaps the most important sequence in the first half. On a fourth and two just inside the red zone, Shively was stuffed on his rushing attempt, causing a turnover on downs and giving the ball back to the Blue Jays. After coming up with the big play, North Judson was able to capitalize on the momentum swing, getting onto the scoreboard on a 72-yard rushing touchdown. The two-point conversion that followed was no good, keeping the home side in front with nine minutes remaining in the half.
Triton was unable to get anything going on its next drive, punting after a 3-and-out. With the momentum now fully on their side, the Blue Jays started winning battles at the line of scrimmage they previously weren’t, resulting in a long and methodical drive that the Trojans had no answer for. With two minutes left in the half, the Blue Jays would convert a two-yard score to take their first lead of the night. Another failed two-point try kept it a five-point game.
Looking to get something going just before halftime, Shively attempted a few passes, but was unable to find anybody. North Judson would get the ball back and put together another solid drive, but in the final seconds of the half, Shively came up with a defensive interception to keep it a 12-7 game going into the third.
Needing a spark and needing it quickly, the Trojans got the ball to begin the third quarter. Running back Kohan Hensley, who did not have a carry in the first half, was the featured back on this drive, stringing some nice runs together to pick up a first. Then, with the home side near midfield, disaster struck. On Shively’s first pass attempt of the drive, the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, resulting in an interception by a Blue Jay linebacker, stopping the good-looking drive in its tracks.
After getting the ball back, the Blue Jays picked up right where they left off in the first half, continuing to run the ball down the Trojans’ throats. After another grueling drive for the Triton defense, North Judson punched it in on another short carry to make it a two-score game after a successful two-point conversion. To make matters worse, the drive took a lot of time off the clock, and now only five minutes remained in the third.
The home side was able to right the ship on its next drive. After a nice kick return started the drive at midfield, some nice running by Hensley and Vinnie Prater set up the Trojans nicely. Shively was able to connect on another deep ball, this time a 37-yard gain to Javan May to get the team into the end zone. As the third-quarter buzzer sounded, Triton was at the four-yard line with two chances to get into the end zone.
The third-and-goal attempt stayed in the arms of Shively and the quarterback keeper went nowhere. On the biggest play of the season, the fourth and goal, the Trojans ran the same play and got the same result, as a flock of Blue Jays piled on to make the stop with eleven minutes left to keep it a two-score game.
After coming up with what felt like a game-sealing stop, North Judson was able to put the game on ice on their following drive. The Triton defense had no answer as the Blue Jays bullied their way down the field on a drive that lasted just under seven and a half minutes and resulted in yet another touchdown. The Trojans now trailed by 19 with just over three minutes to go.
There would be no miracle comeback, as the Trojans turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession. A nice hook-and-ladder play on 4th down was ruled out of bounds a yard short of the first.
North Judson added a final touchdown in the final minute of the game.
Shively finished his night with 149 yards passing, 21 yards rushing and the team’s lone score. May had 67 yards receiving while Workman added 75. Hensley led all running backs with 15 yards.
The last of Triton’s three sectional championships came in 2018. The Trojans will return next season.