By James Gensterblum / Daily News Correspondent
The Jonesville Comets’ season is one that can be measured in inches, with a number of close losses dragging down their overall record.
True to the trend this season, a couple of plays were again the difference in a 37-20 loss to the Blissfield Royals that was closer than the score indicated. And with that the Jonesville Comets’ playoff hopes took a major blow as they finish the season 5-4.
The Comets gave up a touchdown on a fumble when they were trying to run out the clock before the half, missed a crucial two-point conversion in the third quarter, and then conceded another touchdown in the waning minutes after any real hope of a comeback had disappeared.
“We fought hard tonight, and every kid played their heart out,” said Jonesville head coach Joshua Lindeman. “Blissfield is an excellent team and we refused to go away until the very end. We just had a couple of plays that didn’t go our way and (Blissfield) took advantage of them.”
At the start of the game, it looked as though the Royals might run away from Jonesville.
Blissfield forced a quick 3-and-out and then promptly went 73 yards down the field, culminating in a 10-yard run by Travis Babbitt to take an 8-0 lead.
Jonesville, however. responded early in the second quarter, as freshman Brandon Jenkins scored on a 69-yard run to cut the lead to just one.
“It’s been good to help out the team,” said Jenkins, who led Jonesville with 104 yards on five carries. “So many teams try to take away (running back) Johnny (Sigler), so anything I can do to open things up for him and the other backs is good.”
Blissfield seized control late in the second quarter, getting an 18-yard touchdown run from Dalton Goetz and, with five seconds left in the half, a touchdown return off a Jonesville fumble, to go into halftime up 21-7.
Although the Comets made several attempts to get back into the game after the half, the damage was done.
“It’s tough to come back after going down like that,” Lindeman said. “Our kids came out and did everything they could to get it back, but we just came up a little short.”
Blissfield was staunch on defense all game, holding senior running back Johnny Sigler to just 11 carries on 19 yards, although Sigler did rush for a one-yard touchdown and also scored on an 85-yard kickoff return.
All told, the Comets managed under 200 yards of offense, a rarity for a team that had been fairly prolific all season on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, Jonesville largely held their ground against Blissfield’s offensive attack in check, but were once again victimized by a few breakdowns, including a 55-yard touchdown pass from Eric Schmidt to Kyle Wehner that put the game out of reach.
Goetz was the Royals’ leading rusher, with 18 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns, while Schmidt was 6-for-12 through the air for 104 yards and one interception.
Spencer Nielsen was just 1-for-4 on the night, but his one completion moved Jonesville down to the Royals’ one-yard line and set up Sigler’s rushing touchdown.
Although they failed to qualify automatically for the MHSAA playoffs, the team is still technically alive and must now wait for the final playoff points totals to come out and decide their fate.
“It’s a difficult thing, because as I told our kids in the huddle our average isn’t very high and we’re going to need a lot of things to break our way,” Lindeman said. “It’s been a great season either way and I’m proud of the effort our kids have put forth.”
Although the odds seem to be against them, Sigler hasn’t given up hope.
“On the one hand, I know that we’re not likely to make it,” Sigler said. “But on the other hand, I think that if we do we could surprise a lot of people. This team has come together a lot in the past couple of weeks and we’ll keep coming hard if we’re given the opportunity.”