The Harrisonville Wildcats had to overcome a lot Friday night in the home finale, but the Cats stuck to it and claimed their second win of the season topping Oak Grove 41-29.
It looked early like it was going to be another long night for the Wildcats as two miscues left the team trailing 15-0. Oak Grove’s first touchdown followed a high snap and shanked punt giving the Panthers a very short field. Following their score HHS used a 7:30 minute drive down the field only to lose the ball on downs at the three yard line. Oak Grove went the length of the field in just two plays and the score was 15-0 and the emotions around the stadium were as cold and damp as the weather.
The Panthers appeared poised to add insult to injury by successfully completing an onsides kick and were driving for their third score when HHS senior Jaydn Wilson stepped in front of a Panther receiver to pick off a pass and he then outran the defense 99 yards for a pick-six touchdown and the Wildcats suddenly had a spring in their step.
The play turned around what could have been a 21-0 lead into a 15-6 deficit. One the Wildcats would wipe out early in the second half.
HHS performed its own onside kick to start the second half and with the possession the Cats drove the field and Wilson again found pay dirt, scoring from 27 yards out. From there it was virtually all Wildcats and almost all Wilson as the added four more offensive touchdowns with runs of 16, four, seven and 57 yards.
“The interception late in the first half was a huge momentum builder going into halftime for our team,” Coach Brent Maxwell said. “Our coaching staff made some great adjustments at half on both sides of the ball and our kids executed in the second half which ultimately led to our successes.”
“Our offense was able to move the ball effectively for most of the night only to force ourselves to give the ball back to Oak Grove due to some untimely penalties. There were many things that could have caused our team to give up,” he said. “However, I think the pass interception and the onside kick to start the second half, gave our kids the confidence they needed and changed the momentum.”
The Wildcats were forced to use sophomore quarterback River Riley for much of the second half after junior QB Landon George was injured on the next-to-last play of the first half.
“He came in and did a nice job,” Maxwell said. “Landon (junior George) was working through some issues with his non-throwing shoulder so River stepped in and kept the drive going with a nice pass to Colby Knowles and managed the running game well.
“That is never an easy task for any back-up, but especially those at the quarterback position. He did a very nice job.”
HHS only had 80 yards passing in the game. George throwing for 44 and Riley for 36.
Wilson had 180 yards rushing on 22 carries with freshman Jace Reynolds adding 16 carries for 141 yards.
Junior Colby Knowles had three pass receptions for 69 yards and Reynolds one for 11.
Sophomore linebacker Hagan Stevenson had nine tackles, one assisted tackle, one sack and three tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Jacob Poisal three tackles and 10 assisted tackles. Junior defensive back Colby Knowles had two tackles and two tackles for loss and junior defensive back Carson Crowley had one tackle and eight assisted tackles.
Coach Maxwell found many reasons to enjoy the win.
“It was a good win for us all around,” he said. “It was our last guaranteed home game of the year and it was also senior night. If we could put together a string of wins in district play, we could potentially earn another chance to play at home.
He was pleased for his seniors.
“It was a nice to get a win for our seniors in their last home game,” Maxwell said. “It was also a good win for our younger players that continue to learn and grow gaining the experience they will use to build upon.”
The victory lifted HHS to 2-6 on the year and was the only victory at home.
HHS faces a tough task in the regular season finale tomorrow at Odessa. The Bulldogs are 8-0 on the year.
“We will face a very good Odessa Bulldog team,” Maxwell said. “They are fundamentally sound in all phases.”
“They looked a lot like our team just a couple of years ago, but now those kids have experience and skills that have allowed them to be very successful.
“With some new energy and confidence after this past week’s win, hopefully we can have a great week of preparation and will be able to travel to Odessa and continue to build upon that success.”