ST CHARLES, Mo. — On Friday the Jefferson Blue Jays (8-2) will face Duchesne (9-1) in the Class 2 state quarterfinal game for the first time in history.
For Duchesne, this isn’t something unheard of. The pioneers played in the Class 3 state quarterfinal game in 2014, and were eliminated by McCluer South.
Since then, Duchesne has made one district final appearance. But in a year unlike any other, the Pioneers are back on track for a deep playoff run.
With only eight seniors and five juniors, Duchesne defeated Lutheran St. Charles (16-13) in the district championship game. The same team they lost to in their sole loss of the 2020 regular season.
The Pioneers are led by a younger core. Sophomore running back Antwon Hayden leads the team in scoring with 14 touchdowns, 928 total rushing yards, and 141 total receiving yards.
Junior linebacker Nathan DeGuentz also plays a key role for the Pioneers defensively with 73 tackles this season.
Duchesne head football coach Charlie Elmendorf said his team is prepared for the challenge Friday night.
“We’re gonna have to play well in order to continue on in the playoffs, and to win the game, and be able to go to the semi-finals,” Elmendorf said. “But watching them on film, they do a lot of good things. They’re very aggressive defensively. They’re offensive and defensive lines, both get off the ball very well. They’ve got a couple running backs that run extremely hard. So you’re not just focusing on one particular person. It will be a challenge for us. But I feel like our kids have responded the last couple weeks with some quality opponents like we’ll see on Friday night”
But this mile-marker in the postseason is new for Jefferson High School.
The Blue Jays varsity football program was established in 2012, and this year marks their first state quarterfinal appearance after losing in the district championship game to Cardinal Ritter in 2015.
Jefferson lost to Cuba in week two before rebounding and defeating Herculaneum 54-0 in week three.
Following the victory over Herculaneum, the team was sidelined for two weeks due to COVID-19 related issues. Jefferson faced powerhouse Valle Catholic in their fourth game of the season following their two-week quarantine, and lost 47-13.
Jefferson head football coach Alex Rouggly said the loss to Valle Catholic was their turning point, and practices became more focused and rigorous.
The Blue Jays have won six games straight since. They defeated New Madrid County Central 42-20 in the district championship game.
“We tell our kids to enjoy the moment,” Rouggly said. “Enjoy this ride. Because this is something that you’re never going to forget for the rest of your lives. So we talk about, ya know, making memories. And our kids are making memories that are going to last a lifetime. But also, we’re not done. We’re not done, and that’s the main thing that we’ve been telling our kids is, ‘You have an opportunity to put a banner up in our gym if we can win this football game and get into the final four.”
Duchesne will host Jefferson in the state quarterfinal game on Friday at 7 p.m.