MONROE – The man on the loudspeaker at Adams Central said it best on Friday night: “there is no such thing as bad weather, only soft football fans.”
Who knew Flying Jets boys basketball coach Aaron McClure was so wise?
The fans toughed it out at Adams Central for the game of the week as South Adams took control of the ACAC and their county rivalry with a 42-14 win over the host Flying Jets. Sure, kickoff at this particular game was only delayed by half an hour due to lightning. Far better than near 10 p.m. start times at a couple of places in the SAC and the many postponements to Saturday due to storms. And sure, the rain was light to nonexistent by halftime in Monroe. But Blitz enjoys the commitment; the lack of soft fans.
And 2,603 of them. That is a lot of fans who showed out to see a show called Arnold.
A week after becoming the school’s all-time leading passer, South Adams junior James Arnold was on fire on Friday night, slicing through the wetness with another Starfire record night, connecting on 30 of his 45 passes for a school record 471 yards and four touchdowns. Despite the rainfall, South Adams coach Grant Moser pointed out to yours truly in the pregame that his team still intended to “chuck it.” And from the get go, moving the ball through the air was South Adams’ go to.
That was the tough way to go on Friday, going head to head with water logged opening half.
“The line was giving James enough time to throw the ball and Christian [Summerset] was running the ball great, everyone was catching the ball; it was all around great,” South Adams junior Nick Miller said. “We got ready for this, we wet the ball in practice with no gloves. It was a struggle but we were doing it.”
Arnold completed his first big pass on the first South Adams drive when he connected with Aidan Wanner for 24 yards on third down and 10. He found Miller moments later and the tight end strong armed his way down near the goal line before he was stripped of the ball by Alex Currie for the only Starfire turnover of the game..
“Right away, I grabbed him [Miller] and said ‘keep your chin up, it is going to be a long, long game here.’ We were going to have most things we wanted there in the passing game, he would get the ball a lot more and obviously he took advantage of that,” Moser said.
That fumble did give Adams Central their chances. Both Blake Heyerly and Joseph Collier made strides on the Flying Jets’ first two drives, with Heyerly scoring from the one yard line on the second trip to pull within 7-6 of South Adams.
But it wasn’t going to get closer than that. Something about a first possession turnover and a quick Adams Central score woke the beast in the Starfires that is making them the class of Class 1A. Nothing was going to go against South Adams from there on out. After Arnold hit Summerset from 13 yards out for a score and then ran a touchdown in on a quarterback keeper to complete an 80 yard drive, the game was firmly in control in the second quarter. The Flying Jets looked to have their breaks, often putting South Adams in bad field position on booming punts from Heyerly.
Blitz knew that there was no coming back on one of those punts with under three minutes in the first half. Heyerly pinned the Starfires at their own three yard line forcing Arnold to make a quick pass to Miller, who then eluded and pulled defenders around the field with him for a 39 yard gain. That elusiveness by Miller helped set up an Arnold to Wanner touchdown from 22 yards out on a fade route.
“Our offense came out and punched them in the mouth from the very first possession; the way they moved the ball down the field, James played an incredible game again,” Moser said. “The way they’ve dominated us the last two years put pressure on James.”
Miller was the favorite Arnold target with 10 receptions for 164 yards, Wanner added 143 yards receiving and Drew Stutzman had six catches for 87 yards. Summerset added 71 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Defensively, Summerset and Grady Sprunger each had 6.5 tackles and Braden Bixler had a game ending interception while the Starfires forced Adams Central into 1-of-12 passing.
“We all love it, it is a great experience for all of us,” Miller said.
You’ll catch Blitz using the word elusive a lot with South Adams. But its fair. Miller, multiple times, just pushed up field with Adams Central players on his back. Late in the game, Drew Stutzman required five Flying Jets to attend to tackling him. Multiple times, Adams Central had Arnold dead to rights; a hand on his shoulder or his foot wrapped up and they couldn’t take him down. In fact, the Starfires have not given up a quarterback sack all season.
Blitz would like to say something poetic, like how its a metaphor for how elusive the Starfires are in the ACAC race and maybe even in Class 1A statewide. Because if Adams Central – for years considered big brother in the rivalry – couldn’t put the Starfires in their place, who is going to slow, let alone stop, South Adams?
Jay County, Woodlan and Southern Wells now have the unenviable task of slowing down a team that is winning by an average of just under 40 points per game. Those three teams, a combined 3-13 as of press time, are what stands in the way of the Starfires’ first conference title since 1993 when they won their fourth straight crown. But I probably shouldn’t look that far ahead, that isn’t the South Adams way. Even after their big rivalry win on Friday, Moser immediately made sure to bring his team back down to earth. And that is where they stay, for now.
I’m just glad that I’m not the one that has to try and stop them.
And Moser, while he stays humble, will now get to do so far more unwound than he was as he hoped to avoid lightning in the pregame.
“I’m gonna sleep fantastic. I’ll tell you what, it’s been a week of nerves,” he said. “We are in the drivers seat of the ACAC but we are going to have to take care of business next week.”
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH