Thunder Mountain needed a win Friday night but more importantly, it needed an 18-point victory over Sitka in Juneau to keep its playoff hopes alive.
And Ben Jahn delivered.
Jahn booted a late 27-yard field goal — easily the biggest kick in school history — to give the Falcons a 19-point, 25-6 victory over the Southeast Conference rival Wolves, putting Thunder Mountain in the driver’s seat for its first-ever home playoff game if it can get a win at Ketchikan on Saturday.
“I didn’t even take any warm-up kicks today,” Jahn said of his season-saving field goal, which was tipped at the line of scrimmage but still made it through the uprights. “I was just concentrating on my form and it was tipped at the line. My heart stopped but (the ball) kept going.
“It’s unlike any feeling I’ve ever had. It’s awesome.”
The Falcons (2-4, 2-1) were all but left for dead after a rash of injuries led to an 0-4 start a year after they finished 8-0 in the regular season.
Now, Thunder Mountain controls its own destiny.
“The Ketchikan game (last week), we didn’t play our best but we still got momentum from it. We just came in here in here and played football. I’m proud we got it,” Jahn said. “Coach said last game we make a lot of mistakes but we keep our heads up.”
The Falcons again made a lot of mistakes, with several costly penalties, but got the job done when it mattered most, with Jahn’s kick sailing through with just 3:21 to play before the defense closed the door.
“We get the shot at a home game so Juneau can come watch us play in a playoff game here,” TMHS coach Bill Byouer said. “By no means are we ready yet for that playoff game but we keep getting kids back and keep pushing forward. We have to continue to fight. This feels good to get two in a row.
“That field goal was big. It got tipped but momentum carried it through,” he continued. “Ben has been coming on and he’s really starting to get a nice boot out there. Ben’s only a sophomore so this is good for our future. That kick was beautiful.”
Byouer said the offensive line was a big bright spot for the Falcons, who rushed for 223 yards, including 96 on 12 carries by senior John Jolly.
“They were blocking well tonight and opening big holes for us,” Byouer said. “And the pass blocking was great. All of those guys up front did a great job for us.”
After missing a prime opportunity on first-and-goal from the Sitka 5-yard line on their first possession of the night, the Falcons took advantage of another short field after a second punting miscue by the Wolves.
Thunder Mountain took over the Sitka 26-yard line and two plays later, Camden Thomas found Jahn for a 20-yard scoring strike, giving the Falcons a 6-0 lead after the conversion failed.
There weren’t many first-half fireworks but with just 6.7 seconds on the clock and the Falcons taking over on their own 31-yard line, Thomas dropped back and found Joe Ia on a go route.
Ia caught the pass and outran the defense for a 69-yard touchdown pass, and Thomas then found Jahn in the corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion and a 14-0 Falcons lead at the break.
Thunder Mountain took over at its own 46 to start the second half, and Jolly picked up 13 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Jolly was hit hard and then another Sitka player came in with a late hit. A scuffle nearly broke out as the Wolves were flagged for a 15-yard personal foul and TMHS took over at the Sitka 26-yard line, but three straight flags on the Falcons pushed them back to their own 44 and they were forced to punt.
Thunder Mountain took a 22-0 lead after a 29-yard Jahn touchdown run off a misdirection play to put the Falcons over the 18-point plateau needed for the first time.
Sitka then turned the tables and got on the board on its ensuing possession with a 9-play, 69-yard drive, punctuated by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Gus Bruyhl, cutting the deficit to 22-6 after the conversion failed.
But Jahn’s big boot gave Thunder Mountain back the point differential and put the Falcons in the cat-bird seat with one conference game to play.
Jahn said the team sees the playoff light at the end of the tunnel.
“We beat (Ketchikan) last time but we’re going into their house,” Jahn said. “We’re confident, but not overconfident. We just have to keep our heads up and play good football.”
Thomas finished 4 of 11 for 113 yards and two touchdowns passing, all coming in the first half.
Quarterback Mitchell Board led the Wolves with 85 yards rushing but completed just 3 of 13 passes for six yards. Seth Feldpausch added 74 yards rushing on 14 yards.
How they scored
TMHS — B. Jahn 20 pass from Thomas (run failed)
TMHS — Ia 69 pass from Thomas (B. Jahn pass from Thomas)
TMHS — B. Jahn 29 run (S. Jahn pass from Thomas)
SHS — Bruyhl 1 run (run failed)
TMHS — B. Jahn 27 FG