Jackson senior receiver Lowgn Wren capitalized on his own stealth abilities after Central receiver Garan Evans had slipped behind him on a fly route down the right sideline for a 29-yard touchdown pass just minutes earlier that had put the Tigers ahead by five points midway through the fourth quarter Friday night.
Wren got even when he got behind a trio of Central defenders -- Evans among the group -- down the right sideline with 2 minutes, 31 seconds remaining to vault the Indians to a 29-26 victory.
Wren's 32-yard reception came on a lofted pass that fell into his arms around the goal line and capped a 12-play, 66-yard drive that ended the Tigers' two-year bragging rights. It came before an estimated crowd of more than 6,500 fans in the Indians' first visit to Central's two-year-old Tiger Stadium.
"Ty [Selsor] threw a perfect pass, and I just tried to get under it and make the catch and get in the end zone," Wren said.
The touchdown, which came on second-and-12 play, was the trump card in a game that saw each team score a touchdown in each of the four quarters. Jackson was able to embellish its touchdowns with three PAT conversions from kicker Adam Brown and a two-point conversion, while Central converted on two of its three PATs and was stopped on a conversion run.
"I knew this was going to be a positive year, but this is pretty exciting -- especially for my senior year," Wren said. "I'm very pleased with how everybody is doing this year."
The Indians improved to 5-0 -- the five wins matches their win total from the last two seasons combined -- despite committing five turnovers on the night, including four interceptions thrown by Selsor, Jackson's junior quarterback.
"We started off rough, and we played rough through the whole game," Selsor said. "They came back late in the fourth quarter. Our word of the week was ‘trust,' and we had to trust in our teammates to go down there and score the winning touchdown."
The Indians placed their trust in the hands of Wren, who saw increased playing time on offense against Central with leading receiver Brannon Wright sidelined by a leg injury most of the second half.
Wright has been the centerpiece receiver in the Indians' potent passing attack this season with 23 catches for 500 yards, but he was limited to three catches for 24 yards before departing in the third quarter.
Wren, who was sidelined much of the summer with a pelvis injury, emerged as the Indians' most productive receiver against Central after entering without a reception all season. He finished with four catches for 64 yards.
"That put me out for about seven weeks," Wren said about his injury. "That hurt me on offense, so I've slowly been trying to work my way through. It was hard coming back, but now I'm back on it, and I'm excited about it. It's a lot of fun."
Wren lined up as an inside receiver along the right side on the decisive play and went deep toward the corner while the outside receiver ran a short hitch that lured the defense.
"He's been hurt, but he stepped up when we needed him," Selsor said. "We ran a corner route, and the corner sat on the pitch, and he was open in the corner."
Selsor, who came into the game completing 70 percent of his passes and averaging 247 yards per game, threw for a season-low 138 yards on 13 of 28 passing.
"I'm really proud of Ty Selsor for standing in there, and throwing the ball at the end, getting the touchdown at the end," Jackson first-year coach Brent Eckley said. "That's so tough when you turn the ball over and then you have to be able to throw it to win."
Colten Proffer ran in the two-point conversion for a 29-26 lead.
"I had no doubt our offense could produce yards and get the score," said Proffer, who rushed for a career-high 208 yards.
The Indians converted a fourth-and-3 play at the Central 47 to keep the drive alive. Receiver Skyler Steele picked up seven yards on his only carry of the game. The Indians were 4 of 7 on fourth-down conversions with their usual aggressive offensive approach.
"We want to keep the defense on their heels," Eckley said. "We also have a lot of confidence in our defense."
"Their fourth downs were in opportune places where they could go on fourth down and it wouldn't hurt them," said Central coach Nathan Norman, whose squad fell to 2-3. "That last drive, they had to convert. They knew they couldn't give the ball back to us because they knew we'd run it."
Jackson's defense, which limited Central to 227 yards offense for the night, was able to snuff the Tigers' final possession that started at the 20 with 2:30 left in the game. The Tigers, who had only one timeout, managed to gain a first down at the 34, but two incompletions, a fumbled snap and a sack ended their hopes.
"I can't imagine it getting any better than this," said Eckley about his first encounter in the rivalry. "It certainly was exciting. It was tough going back and forth. A lot of swings in the ballgame."
Jackson took a 21-12 lead on a 3-yard scoring run by Dante Vandeven on its first possession of the second half, but Central took the lead on a pair of touchdown receptions by Evans.
"When you run the ball as much as we do, they're going to be open like that at times," Norman said. "Obviously those were big plays for us."
Evans first pulled in an 18-yard pass from quarterback Dennis Vinson with 5:10 left in the third quarter to narrow the gap to 21-19.
Evans then intercepted a Selsor pass at the Jackson 28 in the fourth quarter to set up a 29-yard go-ahead reception with 6:49 left in the game. Calvin Lovig's PAT gave Central a 26-21 lead.
"The last touchdown pass we had, I think everyone thought we had it," Vinson said.
The two touchdown passes were the only two completions of the game for the Tigers, who were 2 of 10 passing for 47 yards.
The Tigers came into the game averaging 226 yards rushing and 78 passing.
"But we can [pass it], though," Evans said. "The defense don't fall asleep on that."
Proffer, who was held out of almost the entire second half against Poplar Bluff a week earlier, looked healthy against Central. He carried 22 times, including a dazzling 54-yard touchdown run during the second quarter.
"I told a guy earlier, ‘The only way Colten is not going to play is if the doctor takes his stuff,' and that's what happened last week," Eckley said. "They took his equipment so there was no way he could go back in. That's the kind of kid he is. He's a tough kid."
Proffer required two injury timeouts during a 98-yard performance against Poplar Bluff.
"I was pretty tired, but I knew coming out of that game that I was not going to miss this game," Proffer said.
Jackson accumulated 417 yards of total offense to Central's 227 yards but was hampered by turnovers.
"We didn't play real clean," Eckley said. "We had five turnovers and still won the game. That doesn't happen very often."
Norman said he would have thought five turnovers would be enough to ensure a victory for his team.
"Unfortunately their turnovers were deep on our side a lot of times," said Norman, who saw his team convert only the final turnover into points.
Three of the turnovers came in a first half that Jackson dominated statistically. The Indians took just a 14-12 lead into halftime despite a 14-5 edge in first downs, a 48-20 advantage in offensive plays and a 225-113 edge in total offense.
"If you don't make hay when it's time, sometimes that will come back and get you and the other team will have a lot more confidence," Eckley said. "And I think that's what happened. We had chances to score at least three other touchdowns in the first half and we didn't get it done, and that kind of equalized things."
Central gained 80 of its first-half yards in three plays after the opening kickoff. Chris Martin broke free on a 56-yard run on the second play from scrimmage, and senior Jacob Cambpell covered the final 24 yards to the end zone with a run up the middle on the next play for a 6-0 lead at the 10:52 mark.
Jackson answered with a 15-play drive on its first possession, which was capped by a 12-yard run by Selsor. The Indians were successful on two fourth-down plays on the drive and Brown tacked on the PAT for a 7-6 lead for Jackson at the 5:21 mark of the opening quarter.
The Indians committed turnovers on their next two possessions and turned the ball over on downs on their fourth possession before Proffer broke loose for his 54-yard touchdown run with 2:25 left in the first half for a 14-6 lead.
Central's Mikey Jones returned the ensuing kickoff about 70 yards to give Central possession at the Jackson 18. The Tigers needed just two plays to score as Martin carried both times, the second one a 3-yard carry with 1:48 left in the half.
Martin finished the first half with 105 yards rushing on 14 carries. He primarily played defense in the second half and finished the game with 115 yards on 16 carries.
Evans didn't have any regrets about the Tigers' loss before the large, boisterous crowd.
"It was big, it was exciting, it was fun," Evans said. "We just went out there and left everything on the field. It was a war out there."
It was the first time the two schools had met on a Central campus during the 100 years of the rivalry, which Jackson has won eight of the past 10 years. Central still leads the series 58-41-7
"It was nice to get a win over Cape," Selsor said. "It was the big talk all week. It was the big game of the year for some of us."
C -- Jacob Campbell 24 run (kick failed), 10:52
J -- Ty Selsor 12 run (Adam Brown kick), 5:21
J -- Colten Proffer 54 run (Brown kick), 2:25
C -- Chris Martin 3 run (run failed), 1:48
J -- Dante Vandeven 3 run (Brown kick), 9:47
C -- Garan Evans 18 pass from Dennis Vinson (Calvin Lovig kick), 5:10
C -- Evans 29 pass from Vinson (Lovig kick), 6:49
J -- Lowgn Wren 32 pass from Selsor (Proffer run), 2:31
RUSHING -- Jackson, Proffer 22-208, Selsor 23-48, Garrett Miller 5-14, Brannon Wright 1-2, Lowgn Wren 1-4, Dante Vandeven 2-3, Xominique Davis 1-(-6), Skyler Steele 1-7, team (-1); Central, Martin 16-115, Campbell 13-51, Jacob Margetta 1-1, Vinson 4-4, Mikey Jones 4-11, team (-2)
PASSING -- Jackson, Selsor 13-28-4-138; Central, Vinson 2-9-0-47, Martin 0-1-1-0
RECEIVING -- Jackson, Proffer 5-45, Wright 3-24, Wren 4-62, Hunter Schuette 1-7; Central, Evans 2-47