The Harrisonville Wildcats found themselves in an early hole Friday night in first round district football play in Kansas City. But the Wildcats clawed their way back and will live to play another week, having topped Lincoln Prep 34-28.
It was a familiar scenario for the Cats trailing 14-0 in the first quarter. In fact, HHS spotted Lincoln Prep seven points to start the game as HHS fumbled the opening kickoff which was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Lincoln Prep then added another score. But HHS Coach Brent Maxwell credited his team for not panicking.
“I feel that we remained poised and showed a lot of resiliency after the way the game started,” Maxwell said. “It definitely shows some maturity and growth.
“We were able to develop a pretty balanced running attack and passing attack after settling down a little.”
HHS finally found the endzone later in the first quarter when freshman running back Jace Reynolds scored on a 16-yard run. The point-after attempt failed so the Cats trailed 14-6 going into the second quarter.
Harrisonville then trailed 21-6 early in the second quarter, but the Cats scored the next three touchdowns to lead 27-21 at halftime.
Maxwell credited the defense for coming up big.
“We were able to make some big plays behind the line of scrimmage, forcing them to work in long yardage situations on second and third down,” the coach said. “We were able to create some turnovers with Carson Crowley and Braydon Tarwater each getting an interception and Keigan Rowe was able to force and recover a fumble at the Lincoln one.”
That turnover led to the Cats’ second touchdown, a one-yard run by freshman Josh Pesek.
The next two touchdowns came via the air as River Riley connected with Brice Percival from 37 yards out with 3:13 left in the half, and then completed a 57-yard bomb to Colby Knowles with 1:39 remaining. After missing the first PAT sophomore Brandon Johnson was perfect on the next three to complete the HHS scoring for the half.
“I feel our sophomore quarterback River Riley, in only his second career start, managed the game pretty well for our offense,” Maxwell said. “He was able to find the open receivers in Knowles and Percival on several occasions, including those that allowing us to go into halftime with 27-21 lead.”
Lincoln Prep scored in the third quarter and briefly held a 28-27 lead, but HHS countered with a two-yard run by Jaydn Wilson and a Johnson kick to secure what would be the final score.
Maxwell said he wasn’t pleased with the second half.
“We did get a little sloppy in our execution in the second half, but after trading scores in the third quarter, we were able to hold on for the win,” he said. “We earned ourselves the opportunity to play at least one more week. That is the most important task at this time in the season.”
Riley finished the game four-of-10 passing for 129 yards. He had two touchdown passes and one interception. Knowles caught two passes for 73 yards and Percival had two catches for 56 yards.
Wilson was the leading rusher with 14 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown. Reynolds had 13 carries for 74 yards, Pesek carried three times for 18 yards.
Defensively, Crowley and Tarwater each had pass interceptions.
Crowley was the defensive leader with seven tackles and one assisted tackle. Senior defensive back Brody Pitts had four tackles and four assisted tackles, while senior linebacker Christian Cooper had four tackles and one assist.
The victory advanced the Cats to the district semifinal which is tomorrow night. HHS travels to play Van Horn at William Chrisman High School.
Van Horn has a 7-3 record and beat Raytown South 41-29 in its first district game.
“Van Horn will present us with another tremendous challenge,” Maxwell said. “They have had a lot of success this year and it is easy to see why with the athletes they have on their team. They are very athletic and have a ton of overall team speed.”
HHS takes a 3-7 record into the game.
Maxwell said at this point you just have to go all out.
“The goal is to play your best football at this point of the season,” the coach noted. “That will be the primary focus this week as we prepare to slow down the running game of Van Horn and force them into long-yardage situations.
“Offensively, we must take care of the football and focus on achieving first downs. I think if we can minimize their possessions and capitalize on ours, we give ourselves a chance to once again move forward and play for a district championship.”