Big third quarter lifts Jackson to win, as the Polar Bears turn to their ground game.

JACKSON TWP.  Jackson's offensive line assured head coach Tim Budd of one thing at halftime Friday night.

"They said, 'Look, we got these guys,'" Budd said.

They were right.

A big third quarter helped Jackson pull away to a 29-12 win over Akron East at Robert Fife Stadium. The Polar Bears fell behind early, but took the lead in the second quarter and scored the first 16 points of the third to take control.

"These kids deserve all the credit. They're the best conditioned group I've had here," Budd said. "I think that paid off for us. We wanted to keep playing, and that showed in the third quarter when we were able to run the football, hit a couple of key passes and expand on our lead."

Ethan Adkins scored his second touchdown of the game in the third quarter and finished with a game-high 112 yards rushing. In his first start at quarterback, sophomore Hunter Geissinger threw a 10-yard TD pass to Jake Ryan. The Polar Bears also sprinkled in a safety and a fumble recovery by linebacker Jayden Baker in the third quarter.

"I told the guys earlier in the week if we went up at halftime, we could just put them away right away," Geissinger said.

Geissinger was an efficient 14-of-18 passing for 158 yards. His only interception came on a tipped pass.

"I felt like it was good, but I definitely can do a lot better," Geissinger said. "I started off anxious a little bit. It's a lot bigger than what I came from at St. Thomas, but the Friday night experience helped me out a lot to overcome that and get us a win today."

Ryan caught four passes for 55 yards. Johnny Kulich had a team-best five catches for 44 yards. Corwin Craddieth also ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter after the Dragons cut Jackson's lead to 11.

East's two big plays were quarterback George Rozier's 36-yard touchdown run and Travon Walker's 66-yard TD reception from Rozier. Other than that, the Pole Bears held the talented Dragons to 87 yards.

"I thought our defense was really hitting and flying to the ball," Budd said. "That's a credit to our defensive coaches, (defensive coordinator) Jay Rohr and the mindset he instills in those guys."

It took the Polar Bears a possession or two to settle in.

Shawn Gates' interception of a tipped pass set up the first East touchdown. The Dragons went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Jackson 36, and George Rozier ran the quarterback draw up for the middle for the TD and a 6-0 East lead.

The Dragons could not capitalize on their two extra point opportunities. A high snap helped wipe out the first one, but the Polar Bears were whistled for a helmet-to-helmet contact penalty. Jackson's Dylan Fonte blocked the second extra point try.

The Polar Bears turned the ball over on downs the first time they reached East territory. They weren't denied the second time.

A couple of pass completions from Geissinger to Kulich put Jackson on the brink of the red zone. A face mask on East when the Polar Bears were stopped on fourth down inside the 15 extended the drive.

Four plays later, Adkins scored Jackson's first touchdown of the season on a 1-yard run. Tallon Maddern tacked on the extra point to give Jackson a 7-6 lead.

It was only the beginning of what turned out to be a great opening night for the Polar Bears.

 

Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or

mike.popovich@cantonep.com

On Twitter: @mpopovichREP