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DENVER, IN—The stage was set.
After drawing Tipton once again in the opener, then meeting North Miami in the championship for a rematch of last season's sectional championship, AC needed only to win over the Warriors to earn a second shot at Sheridan at the regional level after they defeated Tri-Central.
North Miami had other ideas, however, and ran all over the Jets in a 33-15 victory over AC to earn their first sectional title since 1994. Adams Central coach Michael Mosser was the quarterback for the Jets in 1992.
On defense, Adams Central had no answer for quarterback Austin Barker who beat the Jets mostly with his athleticism and speed rather than his throwing arm.
"We knew coming in that he was going to be trouble for us," coach Mosser noted after the game. "We were hoping to play better defensively but we missed some tackles and he made some big plays that we could not come back from."
Barker finished the game with four touchdowns, all rushing, with 200 yards on the ground while throwing for under 50 numbers reminiscent of South Adams' quarterbacking last season from Dustin Wanner.
North Miami set the tone from the opening kickoff when they returned the boot 61 yards for excellent field position thanks to...who else...Barker who also handles the special teams returning because of his speed.
Two plays into scrimmage, North Miami scored the first points of the game when Barker faked the handoff to his running back causing the defense to fade right while he ran unimpeded to the end zone on the left side for a 15-yard scamper.
The Jets would put together a drive down the field of their own starting from their own 28 yard line nearing the North Miami red zone. Jets' QB Dalton Combs turned an intended pass play into big yards on a scramble but when he was taken down coughed up the pigskin squelching a potential tying touchdown for AC.
The turnover bug hit the Warriors as well on the next possession when they drove the ball from their own 20 down into the Jet territory. Barker went for the hail mary pass in the corner of the end zone intended for Colton Ferrand but Alex Byerly, who gives up a few inches to the Warrior wide-out, leaped in front of the pass. What appeared to be a touchdown with both players holding onto the football was ruled an interception causing a boo-fest from the North Miami faithful.
Neither turnover would be costly as the Jets would punt three plays later. Two possessions later, the Warriors would strike again, this time on a screen to the outside from Barker to Aasa Deardorff who had some excellent blocking clearing his path to the end zone for six more. The kick after failed and the play was officially a 19-yard touchdown run as it was thrown backwards and was not considered a forward passing play.
"It just wasn't our night," stated Mosser. "They came geared up and they came ready. The last two weeks we did what they did to us. They smashed us. We had some injuries we had to deal with and those are things we can't control but I give it up to North Miami. I wish them good luck next week."
AC lost Anthony Spangler to an ankle injury in the first half. His replacement was out sick forcing back-up QB Cooper Hill to play the tight end position, one the junior was not familiar with. Running back Carter Sharp was sidelined after the second quarter when he was rocked by a helmet-to-helmet hit. Kyle Baker injured his ankle late in the third quarter adding to the list.
North Miami's Ferrand would get revenge after losing his touchdown to Byerly earlier when on the Jets' next possession he intercepted a pass intended for Byerly that would have put AC into Warrior territory. North Miami would take advantage of the Jets' second turnover on their first play offensively. Barker dropped back to pass on the first down play but was met at the line by a slew of Jets who over-played the QB and Barker stepped through the pocket turning a potential yard-losing play into a 53-yard touchdown. After the two-point conversion failed, AC found themselves down 19-0 with five minutes left in the half.