DIAMOND — The “Dawn of a New Era” for the Diamond Wildcats ended with a 20-14 loss Friday night to Jasper in SRVC action, but if the effort of new coach Ben Glidewell’s team is any indication, the new era shows promise.

DIAMOND — The “Dawn of a New Era” for the Diamond Wildcats ended with a 20-14 loss Friday night to Jasper in SRVC action, but if the effort of new coach Ben Glidewell’s team is any indication, the new era shows promise.
An interception that led to a touchdown, a blocked field goal attempt returned for a TD and a fumble returned for a score gave the Eagles enough edge to slip by Diamond in its season opener using its new motto. Throw in the Wildcat offense being stopped short of the goal to end the first half for good measure.
“We were right there with them and made some mistakes early,” Glidewell said. “We couldn’t quite do what we needed to down the stretch, but I’m very, very pleased with their effort and execution.”
Diamond started strong in its rushing game with 124 yards on 20 carries in the first quarter. The Wildcats’ only pass attempt in the first was intercepted on third down and returned to the Diamond 27-yard line. Jasper scored in three plays.
The Wildcats continued moving the ball on the ground, mainly with sweep and end-around runs by junior back Triston Shepherd and sophomore receiver Blake Drake.
“We executed very well and tried to throw some different sets and formations at them to get our players in the best position to be successful and leverage them in some space,” Glidewell said.
When a drive stalled and a field goal was attempted, Jasper blocked the kick as Mason Olinger picked up the ball and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles missed extra-point kicks on both first-quarter touchdowns to lead 12-0.
Diamond kept up the pace on the ground and scored on the first play of the second quarter on a dive up the middle by Shepherd, who finished with 68 yards on 16 carries. Sophomore Christian Maturino ran in the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 12-8.
Another costly mistake in the second quarter was a Diamond fumble at the Eagles’ 24 that was returned 76 yards for a TD by Braiden Davis. A two-point conversion put Jasper up 20-8.
Diamond showed resiliency and marched down the field to set up a chance to score inside the 5 in the closing seconds of the first half. The Wildcats were stopped short of the goal as the clock ran out.
“That would have been a game-changer for sure,” Glidewell said. “I wish we could have came away with more points when we had the ball, but pleased and excited to continue to move forward and get better each week.”
A factor in the game beyond turnovers and Diamond rushing was the Wildcat defense, which only gave up one touchdown and held Jasper scoreless in the second half.
Still down 20-8 in the fourth quarter, Diamond turned to senior quarterback Michael Bray, who completed all three of his passes for 70 yards in the final 12 minutes.
“We’ve got to put points on the board,” Glidewell told his offense before embarking on a drive that ended with a halfback pass from Shepherd to Drake, who out jumped two defenders along the right edge of the end zone to haul in the TD pass. The extra-point kick was blocked, leaving the Wildcats behind 20-14 with 4:36 remaining.
Luz Rangel attempted an onside kick that Jasper recovered. The Eagles converted on a fourth-and-two play with 2:38 left and ran out the clock as the Wildcats were out of timeouts.
Eliminate the mistakes and the Wildcats might have started the season with a 1-0 record instead of 0-1. Improvement is exactly what Glidewell anticipates going into the week two matchup with East Newton.
 “The biggest jump that most teams make is from week one to week two,” Glidewell said. “They (Eagles) already had that jump this week and this was our first game.”

Jasper          12 8 0 0 – 20
Diamond        0 8 0 6 – 14

First quarter
J – 10 run (kick failed), 9:37
J – Olinger 65 blocked kick return (kick failed), 4:28
Second quarter
D – Shepherd 4 run (Maturino run), 11:53
J – Davis 76 fumble return (Jeffries run), 2:12
Fourth quarter
D – Drake 16 pass from Shepherd (kick blocked), 4:36

First downs    10
Rushing    40-229
Passing    6-11-1-88
Total yards    317
Penalties    3-30
Return yards    54
Punting    3-25.0

Rushing: Drake 4-85, Shepherd 16-68.
Passing: Bray 5-10-1-70, Shepherd 1-1-0-16.
Receiving: Shepherd 2-38, Divine 2-28, Drake 2-22.