Jags football kicks off season strong

Despite the victory, senior Darian McElhannon takes a fall during the Harlingen game and now must face yet another obstacle of recovering over his knee injury on the sideline.

By Matt McGouran| sports writer

Last year Johnson comfortably defeated the Harlingen Cardinals 36-0 on the road. This year the Jaguars defeated the Cardinals once again by the score of 35-23 after a summer of working hard and preparing for the upcoming season.

“We knew Harlingen wanted revenge on us from last year which motivated us even more to get extra practice time in and be fully prepared,” senior Devlin Gilligan said.

 The team worked out together for most of the summer. Whether it was one practice a day or even two practices a day, the team dedicated themselves this offseason, and their hard work payed off with a week one victory over the Cardinals.

“We had practice everyday leading up to the game,” senior Hunter Rittiman said. “We played good together as a team,  and that is how we got the win.”

Although they started off their season with a win, the team knows that even after the best of performances there are always adjustments to be made.

“We played a good game, but there is always room to improve on things such as blocking or running routes,” sophomore Josh Theissen said.

Rittiman threw for 173 yards and had 4 total touchdowns. Theissen recorded 86 yards and a touchdown in the first game of the season. These performances were exactly what these players needed to get their momentum going for the rest of the season.

“It was nice to get the first game jitters out of the way,” Rittiman said. “It was also nice to defend our ‘title’ against Harlingen and come away with the win.”

The next game for Johnson was against the Brandeis Broncos, who defeated the Jaguars 30-13 in last year’s matchup. This years team was looking for revenge, but fell short in a shootout, losing 68-53.

“We all hoped that we could win against Brandeis,” Theissen said. “We didn’t want to get beat by them again. We wanted to do to them what they did to us last season.”

Despite the loss, the team played well, with school records broken and a state record challenged. Rittiman had 474 passing yards, a new school record, and threw for 6 touchdowns. Rittimann also broke the school record for pass completions in a game with 17. Theissen had 9 receptions for 328 yards, both school records, and two touchdowns. Thiessen’s 328 yards is the ninth most yards receiving in a game all time in the state.

“I am not really playing for the stats,” Theissen said.”I play to play the game and whatever happens, happens.”

Like all Johnson sports programs, Jaguar Football has set high expectations for the team. In addition to the team goals, the players have set goals for themselves as well. They’re confident in their abilities and are ready to show how how much they’ve been practicing in the offseason.

 “I want to be able to break all the Johnson passing records in my last season here,” Rittiman said. “It would be nice to go out with a bang.”

The Jags faced Wagner the next week and were able to get a bounce back win shutting out the T-birds 43-0.

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