Typically there are a few flashes in every game when the unbridled force of Jada Byers’ speed is in plain sight.
On Saturday afternoon, the best example came in the second quarter.
Byers intercepted a pass two yards deep in his own end zone.
And he was gone.
Players chased him like they were running in slow motion. A couple thought they had an angle on Byers. They didn’t.
Byers made two cutbacks, brushed aside an entire field of defenders and ran for an uncontested 102-yard touchdown.
It was his second defensive touchdown of the first half and the highlight of the five first-half turnovers his St. Joseph football team forced in a 41-16 win over visiting Timber Creek. The win sealed the West Jersey Football League’s Continental Division title for the 7-1 Wildcats.
“The interception was so beautiful, we went over that play all day long in practice," said Byers, who also carried the ball 21 times for 171 yards on offense and finished with four touchdowns — two defensive, two offensive — giving him 91 for his career. "It was the only play we went over in our goal-line defense. … Once I read it, I said, ‘I got to get the pick, and I got to go all the way with it.' ”
Byers had an interception on the opening drive. Then, just 1 minute, 53 seconds before his coast-to-coast touchdown, he stripped a receiver in the secondary and returned it 65 yards for a score.
These were the highlight reel plays of a dominant defensive performance by St. Joseph, which forced a turnover on each of Timber Creek’s first three possessions.
“We’ve been starting out slow at home, so we had to come out and make a statement today,” said defensive end Keshon Griffin, who stripped the ball and ran it eight yards on Timber Creek’s third drive. “The plan was to blitz a lot, get pressure on the QB and force turnovers, and we were able to do that.”
While the Wildcats built a 28-3 first-half lead behind their swarming defense, Timber Creek didn’t help its cause. In addition to the turnovers, the Chargers were also flagged eight times in the first half, including offside calls on St. Joseph’s first two offensive plays.
“I’ve been coaching since 1995, and I’ve never been a part of a game that poorly executed. Period,” said Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson. “You can’t win that way. You can’t even compete that way. And it showed.”
Timber Creek was more competitive in the second half. Quarterback Donovan Leary looked strong, finishing 24-of-42 passing for 290 yards and two touchdowns. His 22-yard touchdown pass, off a screen play to Dior Boyd midway through the third quarter, made the score 28-10.
But it wasn’t long before Byers struck again, breaking loose for a 63-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
“The kid is legit, and that’s an understatement,” Hinson said. “He can hurt you so many ways.”
Timber Creek 0 3 7 6 — 16
St. Joseph 7 21 0 13 — 41
SJ: Tyrell Russell 21 pass from Jayden Shertel (Trevin DelGozzo kick)
TC: Zach Coluccio 44 field goal
SJ: Jada Byers 1 run (DelGozzo kick)
SJ: Byers 65 fumble return (DelGozzo kick)
SJ: Byers 102 interception return (DelGozzo kick)
TC: Dior Boyd 22 pass from Donovan Leary (Coluccio kick)
SJ: Byers 63 run (kick failed)
TC: Marcus James 9 pass from Leary (pass failed)