CHEYENNE – Getting pressure on Jackson quarterback Sadler Smith was a big emphasis for Cody heading into Friday’s Class 3A state championship game.

But for the pressure to ultimately be successful, the coverage had to be just as effective. It was.

Cody forced Smith into four interceptions, and three of them went the other way for touchdowns as the Broncs from Cody defeated the Broncs from Jackson 41-24 to win their second consecutive title. It’s Cody’s fourth state championship since 2014.

“We got pressure on (Smith) throughout the night. He’s an extremely good quarterback, and he’s really good outside the pocket,” Cody coach Matt McFadden said. “Our defense came up with some huge plays, those pick-sixes were crushing.

“We got some really good (defensive backs), and they kinda felt like they were called out a little bit, so for them to come back and play really, really well, I was really, really proud of them.”

Two of those pick-sixes came in the third quarter, and two were in the red zone. Remy Broussard snagged the first one and returned it 89 yards to give Cody a 21-10 lead. After that, it was Matt Nelson’s turn. Nelson snared a pass on the following possession and returned it 59 yards for the score.

“He ran that route earlier on fourth down, and I read it, I knew it was coming, and I just jumped it,” Nelson said. “Jackson was saying they were going to target our DBs, and you know, bring it on, we were ready.”

Nelson struck again, this time jumping a route at Cody’s goal line as Jackson was threatening to score. The junior housed it for a 100-yard return in a deflating sequence for Jackson.

“You can’t turn the ball over, obviously, for points, and that’s uncharacteristic,” Jackson coach David Joyce said. “That hadn’t happened all year, and for it to happen right now is disappointing, but they’re a good football team, and we didn’t play our best today.”

After Jackson trailed 7-3 at the end of the first quarter, both teams struggled to find any offensive momentum early in the second period. Jackson found its footing, though, and went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Brody Hasenack 29-yard touchdown rush. Jackson converted two third-down attempts and a fourth-and-5 on that drive.

Cody responded with an 80-yard drive of its own, using eight plays and 2:11 to take a 14-10 lead into the break. Both of Cody’s first-half touchdowns came from run-pass option reads where quarterback Lucas Talich connected with Kellon George.

“We’re a tempo team, and we had to go fast and our stuff that we rely on wasn’t working,” Talich said. “We knew it was going to pop, and that’s exactly what happened. The RPO game opened up because we were able to run the ball.

“It was a huge momentum change for us. We were able to score that touchdown, and it gave us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence going into the half.”

Jackson gained some early momentum of its own to start the second half when Clancy Meaghar intercepted a Talich pass. But the Cody defense took control of the game following that to put the contest out of reach. The Cody offense only ran four plays in the third quarter.

Smith finished with 349 passing yards and 91 rushing yards for Jackson. Hasenack netted 141 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns after bulling in for the final two Jackson scores during the final two minutes of the game. Nate Keipert had six receptions for 107 yards.

Talich passed for 129 yards and three touchdowns for Cody. He also rushed for 43 yards, and Chaz Cowie added 43 on the ground. Jack Schroeder led the Cody defense with 12 total tackles and a sack.

Jackson (9-3) ran 98 plays to Cody’s 48, and finished with 581 total yards of offense, compared to Cody’s 281. However, the 248 return yards off of interceptions proved to be the biggest difference.

Cody finished the season 11-0 and won its seventh state title in school history.

“We’ve never gone back-to-back in Cody, and this is the 100th year of Cody football,” McFadden said. “That was the goal to start out (the season) and that’s a lofty goal. ... Just proud of this whole unit.”

CODY 41, JACKSON 24

Jackson……….. 3 7 0 14 – 24

Cody…………………. 7 7 14 13 – 41

SCORING SUMMARY

First quarter

J: Hills 31 field goal, 5:30

C: Kellon 16 pass from Talich (Gail kick), 1:44

Second quarter

J: Hasenack 29 run (Hills kick), 2:16

C: Kellon 24 pass from Talich, (Gail kick) 0:11

Third quarter

C: Broussard 89 interception return (Gail kick), 6:38

C: Nelson 59 interception return (Gail kick), 3:57

Fourth quarter

C: Nelson 100 interception return (Gail kick), 10:24

C: Trotter 17 pass from Talich (2-pt failed), 3:43

J: Hasenack 1 run (Hills kick), 1:55

J: Hasenack 2 run (Hills kick), 0:09

OFFENSIVE STATISTICS

Rushing

Jackson: Hasenack 25-141, Smith 23-91. Cody: Talich 9-43, Sowie 9-43, Trotter 4-39, Schroeder 6-24, Beaudrie 3-5, Brost 1-2, Moss 1-(minus-1), Hogan 1-(minus-3).

Passing

Jackson: Smith 28-50-4 349. Cody: Talich 7-13-1 129, Ball 0-1-0 0.

Receiving

Jackson: Scott 9-62, Dawson 7-90, Keipert 6-107, Meagher 2-43, Hasenack 2-25, DiDanoto 2-22. Cody: George 2-40, Cowie 2-40, Trotter 2-39, Gail 1-10.

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS

Jackson

Tackles (solo-assists-total): Meagher 3-4-7, Dawson 4-2-6, Garland 3-3-6, Carney 3-3-6, Weyhrich 1-5-6, Pew 3-2-5, DiDanoto 1-4-5, Scott 3-0-3, Berezey 1-2-3, Ransom 2-0-2, Jenkins 1-1-2, Keipert 1-0-1, Hasenack 1-0-1, Johnson 0-1-1, Evenson 0-1-1. Sacks: Gralund ½-3, Berezy ½-4. Tackles for loss: Meagher ½-2, Dawson ½-1, Gralund 1½-4, Carney 1-1, DiDanoto 1-4, Berezy ½-4. Forced fumbles: Dawson 1. Fumble recoveries: Dawson 1-0. Interceptions: Meagher 1-15. Pass breakups: Gralund 1, DiDanoto 1.

Cody

Tackles (solo-assists-total): Schroeder 6-6-12, Beaudrie 7-3-10, Talich 8-1-9, Nelson 6-2-8, Broussard 6-2-8, Gorman 6-2-8, W. Thomasson 4-4-8, Grant 3-2-5, Arnold 3-1-4, Wilson 2-1-3, T. Thomasson 1-2-3, Gail 2-0-2, Lindemann 0-2-2, McLeod 0-2-2, Mortenson 1-0-1, Hensley 1-0-1, Williams 1-0-1, George 1-0-1, Beardall 1-0-1, Polley 0-1-1, Growney 0-1-1, Moss 0-1-1, Team 1-0-1. Sacks: Schroeder 1-4, Williams 1-11. Tackles for loss: Schroeder 2-5, Broussard 1-1, Gorman ½-1, Grant 1-5, Lindemann ½-0, Williams 1-11. Interceptions: Nelson 3-159, Broussard 1-89. Pass breakups: Broussard 1, Nelson 1, W. Thomasson 1, Wilson 1, T. Thomasson 1, Gail 1, Lindemann 1.

Robert Munoz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at rmunoz@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter @rmunoz307.

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