CAMDENTON — The soft opening of the Damon Wells era produced mixed results in scrimmage sessions Friday at the Camdenton Jamboree against West Plains, Camdenton and Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
Wells wanted to see how the team responded in their first live reps against opposition after fall camp and a full offseason in charge.
“I really didn’t have much in the way of expectations because the only people we compare ourselves to is ourselves,” Wells said. “I most wanted to see after a month of getting after it, if our kids were going to be physical and aggressive and cohesive. So I was curious more than expected.”
Jefferson City got 12 plays on offense and 12 on defense against each team with both teams starting each drive at the opponent 40. In the Jays’ 36 total offensive plays, they scored four times and gave up four scores on their 36 combined defensive plays.
Against West Plains and Camdenton, the Jays scored once while giving up two scores each before closing strong by scoring twice against Smith-Cotton and holding the Tigers scoreless. Jefferson City travels Sept. 17 to Smith-Cotton in a Central Missouri Activities Conference contest.
“I was particularly excited to play some quality teams and see how we stacked up,” Wells said. “A lot of positives but a lot of room to grow also.”
The quarterback competition took another step for Jefferson City, with Hayden Wells taking the reigns for the first and third scrimmages while Seth Brooks was under center against Camdenton. Wells scored on a goal-line keeper against West Plains while a Brooks screen pass to Kevion Pendelton for 35 yards set up a 3-yard score by Jacob Wilson on the final drive against Camdenton.
The two were splitting quarterback snaps but came together for one of the top plays of the night when Brooks jumped in the air and snagged an 8-yard touchdown pass from Wells before tip-toeing the back of the end zone on the final offensive play of the night against Smith-Cotton. Wells finished 4-of-7 with 58 yards passing.
Brooks showed some versatility as a tight end, and his value as a red-zone pass catcher and blocker means he’s still likely to provide value on offense when Wells is at quarterback. Brooks also played some snaps at outside linebacker.
The Jays had an uneven performance with one busted coverage, a few missed tackles and some offensive line struggles but finished strong in each session on defense.
After giving up two scores on the first five plays against West Plains, the defense didn’t give up a single score in the next seven before Ethan Garnett punctuated the period with a sack.
Against Camdenton, David Bethune picked off a deep pass down the sideline to end the period before the Jays finished the night against Smith-Cotton with a goal-line stand to keep the Tigers scoreless.
“I was proud of their effort,” Damon Wells said. “In my opinion, I thought our kids were in shape, I thought with a few minor road bumps. I thought our kids were positive teammates to one another.
Wells also got his answer to his curiosity about the Jays’ physicality.
“Most importantly, to me, though, they were physical,” he said. “Our kids were absolutely physical, okay, so I was impressed by that.”
Jefferson City opens the season next Friday at home against Chaminade. Game time is 7 p.m.
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