After a humbling loss in Arkansas the week before, the Jefferson City Jays traveled to St. Louis and stared down the Jr. Billikens, 26-0.
Jays don't want season defined
by blowout setback in Arkansas
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Sept. 22, 2016
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. --- It was, without question, one of the biggest wins for Ted LePage in his 10 years as head coach of the Jefferson City Jays.
Not just for the coaches, but also the players.
And not just for the coaches and players, but also the fans.
After opening the season against three struggling programs --- and struggling would be kind, they're sitting at a combined 1-14 as we speak --- the Jays got it handed to them in Week 4.
Har-Ber 54, Jefferson City 14.
The Jays had flunked their first, true football test. It had to leave all involved wondering once again ... Wait 'til next year?
But the faith and confidence in this team --- confidence that was certainly shaken --- was, at the very least, somewhat restored last Friday,.
Jefferson City 26, SLUH 0.
The Jays had passed their second, true football test with a bang.
"I think it was one of the biggest wins I've ever been a part of, because we beat a very, very good football team, soundly," Jays coach Ted LePage said.
"I was very interested to see how we were going to play. Each week is a new week, and you have to be as good as you can be, and I thought we played a very good football game."
The Jays were good, indeed --- offensively efficient, defensively dominant.
This wouldn't have been that newsworthy if Week 4 hadn't happened, because the Jays had looked the same way the first three weeks --- three wins by a combined 169-19.
But Week 4 did happen --- Har-Ber, last year's Arkansas Class 7A runner-up, punished the Jays for 583 yards rushing and 615 total yards in the 40-point rout. Jefferson City trailed only 17-14 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half, before the flood gates opened.
"After halftime," LePage said, "they just wore us down with their size. It was the first time I'd seen some of our D-linemen get picked and literally manhandled. But our players never stopped playing, they never quit."
The next week against another good team --- perhaps not at the level at Har-Ber, but still good --- the Jays bounced back. That, sports fans, is something easier said than done.
"Our defensive line was kind of overwhelmed by some of the things Har-Ber had done," LePage said. "But they came back --- and SLUH has some massive lineman, big, strong, fast, physical --- and got their pads lower and really changed the line of scrimmage."
The week between those games was more than a series of physical adjustments, there were some mental adjustments.
"We started with a theme early last week, that very one of them is going to write a story," LePage said. "Players remember things about other players ... what are other players going to say about you 20 years from now? Are you going to be remembered by, 'That's the dude who didn't play,' or 'I loved playing with him, that's the guy who really (made a difference).
"I think our players really bought into that, they wanted their story to be positive."
The head coach wasn't the only one talking.
"We had several players get up and speak," LePage said. "(Senior quarterback) Gunnar See got up and said: 'Coach is always telling stories about teams, let's be one of those teams he tells stories about.'
"They came out last Friday night and there was just a different feeling about our team. It was neat, it was electrifying."
This week offers the electricity of Homecoming, as the fifth-ranked Jays (4-1) get set to host Rock Bridge (1-4) at 7 p.m. Friday. The school will also be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Jays' first state championship, and those players will be recognized before the game.
Rock Bridge shouldn't offer much of a challenge, but the next three weeks are brutal --- at home against CBC (4-1, ranked No. 1 Class 6) at Battle (5-0, No. 1 Class 5) and at Rockhurst (5-0, No. 4 Class 6).
"Our schedule is no joke," LePage said.
Actually, it's a joke without a punchline, simply brutal. The Jays and their fans have to feel a lot better, however, about their chances than they did a week ago.
This team, it seems, wasn't going to be defined by 54-14.
"I really feel like this team likes each other and they want to be a team," LePage said. "Last week, it was a team win, we put all three facets together. There was a great humility to support each other.
"I was just really pleased with how they responded after the loss."
Wait 'til next year? Not just yet.