Jaden Jenkins made the big hit, fell to the ground and saw the football beneath the running back’s back. He grabbed it and held it up.
“I was just praying, looking up at the ref, that he’d call it going our way,” Jenkins said.
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The fumble recovery was Jenkins’ defining senior moment that secured for 16 Kenton Ridge football seniors a memorable senior moment in their final home game. The fumble stopped a potential winning drive for Tecumseh and was the key play in a fourth-quarter comeback in Kenton Ridge’s 34-21 victory.
The Cougars (6-3, 1-2 CBC Kenton Trail) fell behind 21-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Tecumseh quarterback Jayden McFarland bulled in from the one. The Cougars responded with drives of 70 and 49 yards to take a 27-21 lead on a one-yard run by Jenkins and a 20-yard shovel pass from Dylan Lemen to Zach Schneider. Lemen rushed for 107 yards and passed for 116 and Carson Jones rushed for 97 yards.
“Second half Coach (Tyler) Christello got dialed in and my hats off to the offense,” Cougars head coach Joel Marratta said. “They were a second-half team again tonight, and I’m proud of them.”
A blocked extra point after Schneider’s touchdown put the Cougars’ on shaky ground. A squib kick allowed the Arrows to start at their own 45 with 3:50 to play. But on the third play, Jenkins came from his linebacker spot on a sweep and knocked the ball loose from Gavin Wasson. The Cougars added a Jones touchdown run with 1:08 left.
“I knew we needed the ball back to secure the game so I just went in there and I hit him and I saw the ball come out,” Jenkins said. “Right after that I was so excited and I couldn’t hold it in.”
The fumble followed an Arrows punt on their previous possession. Before that the Arrows were hard to stop. They rushed for 261 yards. Wasson had 106 on 25 carries and Clay Mastin had 71. The Arrows have been more of an I-formation team this year, but they showed KR a lot of its old misdirection wing-T. The Cougars’ halftime adjustments took effect in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids had to play tough football and we got a series out of our defense when we absolutely needed it,” Marratta said. “Forcing them to punt, and then we finally got that turnover we so desperately needed.”
For Tecumseh (2-7, 0-3), it was another tough loss in a season of what ifs.
“The tough part is that the kids play as hard as we can ask them to play,” Arrows coach Chris Cory said. “They’re just not seeing the goal at the end of Friday night’s games. It’s tough. We could be 0-9 or we could be 6-3 right now. There’s such a fine line, and we’re just not getting across that fine line right now.”
Only a small number of Kenton Ridge’s senior class have been a part of a 28-14 record the past four seasons. Schneider, who intercepted his fourth pass of the season, has been a part of all four seasons.
“We have a lot of new seniors, but for the six or seven that’s been around the past four years it’s been a really good ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.
Jenkins is one of the new seniors this year. He said Schneider led the way in making him feel welcome.
“To come in here and help these guys I just got to know as my brothers and win their last game and my last game, it means a lot to me,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be a memory I’ll remember forever.”