PLEASANT PLAINS — The long trip north to Pleasant Plains wasn’t very pleasant for Anna-Jonesboro on Saturday, as the Cardinals knocked the Wildcats out of the playoffs with a 41-2 loss in a Class 3A state semifinal on a cold and windy Saturday afternoon.
"We had a great season," said Anna-Jonesboro coach Brett Detering. "It’s unfortunate the way it ended today because I don’t think this was indicative of the team that we’ve been all season. We got on the bad side of momentum at times and didn’t make plays in a couple of situations we needed to. It hurts today, but I’m proud of our kids for the success they had this season. Our fans and community have supported us at home and — like today — on the road."
The loss was Anna-Jonesboro’s first of the season after winning all nine games through the regular season and three more in the playoffs to finish the season at 12-1.
Pleasant Plains (10-3) shut down the Wildcats’ three offensive weapons, holding fullback Jayce Turner to 89 yards rushing on 29 carries, quarterback Bryce Osman to 19 yards on 10 carries and Arieh Hart to 11 yards on seven carries. Osman completed only 2-of-8 passes for 40 yards and two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown.
"That’s a good defense," Detering said. "We had problems getting to their second level. We didn’t get the line of scrimmage blocked very well and we weren’t able to get to the perimeter."
Pleasant Plains rushed for 318 yards, with fullback Nik Samson gaining 208 yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns. Lucas Western finished with 100 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns, mostly in the fourth quarter.
"That was a good football team we ran into, and their offensive scheme gave us some problems," Detering said. "We just couldn’t seem to get Samson tackled. Their offensive line did a great job opening the holes for him."
Anna-Jonesboro won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Pleasant Plains started on its own 20 after Osman’s kickoff went out of the end zone. Samson then took over, carrying the ball on the next six plays down to the A-J 15. Three plays later, facing a 4th-and-1 from the six, Samson ran up the middle into the end zone. After Kai Carlsberg’s extra point kick, the Cardinals led 7-0 before the Wildcats touched the ball.
Anna-Jonesboro began its first drive on their own 27. Turner got the drive started well, gaining 12 yards on three carries, but the drive bogged down with a 4th-and-4 at the 45. However, the Cardinals were off-sides on the punt, giving the Wildcats a second life.
Anna-Jonesboro made the most of it, driving down the field until they faced 3rd-and-goal from the two. Osman was stopped a yard short on a sneak as time ran out of the first quarter. When play resumed, Osman ran a sneak again, but was stuffed an inch short, turning the ball over to the Cardinals.
Pleasant Plains was being cautious with quarterback Ben Reinert running two sneaks gaining two yards. On 3rd down, Kai Carlberg was tackled in the end zone by a slew of Wildcat defenders for a safety, cutting the lead to 7-2 just 1:36 into the second quarter.
Unfortunately, Arieh Hart fumbled Carlsberg's ensuing free kick, and Tristen Tewes recovered at the A-J 37 for the Cardinals. Samson took over again, running five straight plays, starting with a 14-yard gain around right end and later, scoring from the five over right guard. The extra point was good and Pleasant Plains led 14-2 with 8:33 to go until halftime.
Two possessions later, Anna-Jonesboro was forced to punt, but the snap was low and punter Zach Massey was tackled for a 10-yard loss, handing the ball back to the Cardinals at the A-J 27. Samson ran around right end untouched into the end zone, and after the kick, Pleasant Plains led, 21-2.
The Cardinals defense almost totally shut down Anna-Jonesboro after halftime, holding the Wildcats to 91 total yards and three first downs while picking off two passes and returning one for a 21-yard touchdown.