Linn-Mar rallies for first victory, 45-38, over Jefferson

Lions (1-2) break 31-31 deadlock with two scores in final five minutes at Kingston

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Both teams entered the game sorely in need of some offensive footing and a victory.

Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Jefferson brought winless records into a Class 4A Metro clash Friday night at Kingston Stadium, and a burgeoning ground game appeared to be the path each team would take.

Linn-Mar trailed for much of the game, but two touchdowns in the final five minutes allowed the Lions to pull away from the J-Hawks, 45-38, in a non-district game that garnered the Lions a coveted first win.

“In the second half we really adjusted,” senior receiver Josh Gassmann said. “Pounding it, just inside-outside running. The O-line got moving and we felt like we could move the ball better in the second half.”

Gassmann recorded three touches in the contest and scored all three times. After nearly a quarter-and-a-half without a first down that staked Linn-Mar (1-2) to a 14-3 deficit, Gassmann corralled a nine-yard reception from quarterback Reese Phillips on 3rd-and-8 that capped an 11-play, 50-yard drive and got the Lions in the end zone for the first time with 6:57 until halftime.

“We worked all week on trying to stay together and not always trying to make the big play,” Philips said. “Little things add up to the big things.”

Jefferson (0-3) received a lot of big things from its senior quarterback Dylan Hart.

With a particularly effective quarterback run game, Hart exploited the Linn-Mar defense for 130 yards and three scores in 15 first-half carries.

Hart collected TD runs of 27, 4 and a dazzling 55-yarder that gave the J-Hawks a 21-10 lead midway through the second quarter.

A 67-yard catch-and-run connection from Reese to Gassmann got the Lions close before halftime but they still trailed at the break, 24-17.

For the second game in a row, Jefferson led at halftime but faltered in the second frame.

The Linn-Mar defense bottled up Hart over the final two quarters to the tune of 18 yards with 11 carries.

“It was more kids getting off blocks better and tackling better,” Linn-Mar Coach Bob Forsyth said. “It’s not really anything the coaches did. The kids really started to play hard and started to play the way we wanted to at the beginning.”

After an exchange of punts to begin the second half, Phillips executed a quarterback keeper of his own and scored from 39 yards away and tied the game at 24-24.

Hart responded with a 41-yard march in eight plays, and a five-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Tavian Rashed provided Jefferson with its final lead at 31-24.

That lead lasted just one play, as Linn-Mar junior Josh Hilsenbeck returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for the tying score.

After the Linn-Mar defense forced Jefferson to punt on its next two possessions, the 6-foot, 175-pound Phillips broke the 24-24 deadlock with a touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard-line with 4:49 to go.

“That quarterback sneak, I think it works really well,” Phillips said.

Jefferson drove to the Linn-Mar 10-yard-line with less than two minutes left, but failed on 4th-and-goal from the 10-yard-line.

Three plays later, Gassmann took a reverse handoff from Phillips and raced 86 yards to break the game open, 45-31.

“They were blitzing up the middle a lot,” Gassmann said. “We haven’t run it in a game but practiced it. Once I got around the outside and I saw no one, I just thought, ‘I can’t get caught in this play. I’ve got to score.’”

Phillips finished with 100 yards passing, 43 rushing and three total touchdowns.

Tailbacks Neme Saiway and Brennan McGaffe totaled 84 and 50 rushing yards, respectively.

Rashed ran for 81 yards for the J-Hawks, while receiver Devonte Taylor added 74.

Before the game, there was a brief ceremony to emphasize suicide prevention after a 15-year-old Jefferson student made an attempt on his own life earlier in the day.

Members of the Jefferson homecoming court walked along the Kingston track in a show of solidarity and the purple-clad crowd shared a moment of reflection before the national anthem and a release of balloons.

“Jefferson did a really good job, especially with what happened today at their school,” Forsyth said. “I thought the kids really played hard and their coaches really did a good job tonight of getting them ready to play. I just give them a lot of credit for the way they played tonight after what happened. We were sorry to hear that and we feel for them.”

Next week, Linn-Mar hosts third-ranked Washington while Jefferson travels to Kennedy.

AT KINGSTON STADIUM

Linn-Mar 45, Cedar Rapids Jefferson 38

LM — Austin Cochrane 33 FG

CRJ — Dylan Hart 27 run (Tyler Hefflefinger kick)

CRJ — Dylan Hart 4 run (Tyler Hefflefinger kick)

LM — Josh Gassmann 9 pass from Reese Phillips (Austin Cochrane kick)

CRJ — Dylan Hart 55 run (Tyler Hefflefinger kick)

LM — Josh Gassmann 67 pass from Reese Phillips (Austin Cochrane kick)

CRJ — Tyler Hefflefinger FG 25

LM — Reese Phillips 39 run (Austin Cochrane kick)

CRJ — Tavian Rashed 5 run (Tyler Hefflefinger kick)

LM — Josh Hilsenbeck 96 kickoff return (Austin Cochrane kick)

LM — Reese Phillips 1 run (Austin Cochrane kick)

RUSHING - Linn-Mar: Neme Siaway 19-84, Brennan McGaffee 12-50, Reese Phillips 7-43, Josh Gassman 1-86; Cedar Rapids Jefferson: Tavian Rashed 14-81, Devonte Taylor 6-74, Dylan Hart 26-148, Keenan Stewart 2-21, Matthew Moore 1-1, Joshua Furrow 2-16, Noah Vawter 1-1.

PASSING — Linn-Mar: Reese Phillips 5-11-0-100; Cedar Rapids Jefferson: Dylan Hart 3-8-1-33, Noah Vawter 3-9-0-60.

RECEIVING — Linn-Mar: Josh Gassmann 2-76, Trot Carey 1-9, Kirby Kerr 2-15; Cedar Rapids Jefferson: Jacob Henderson 2-24, Tyler Unkel 1-23, Kyler Bell 1-24, Joshua Furrow 2-22.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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