Extra Points: Brian Spano 6/30
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
As I watched both teams struggle to find any offensive rhythm during the first quarter of Missouri's 22-21 victory over Kansas in the 23rd edition of the Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game June 21 from Blue Springs High School, I couldn't help but wonder what such a long layoff from football does to these players.
The last time any of these already high school graduates probably last played any organized football was in November, in a postseason game, for their own high school, when the weather was colder.
Now they come together from all corners of the metro, from all walks of life, during the heat of the summer to suit it up for one last hurrah. They practice for 10 days to earn a little bragging rights for their state.
But what I noticed in that game was just how rusty those players can be. That's nothing to taking away from anyone on the field. Everyone of them is an all-star, deserving to be there, but with such a long layoff, and practicing in the heat with strange players from strange teams, I guess it makes sense that this type of game won't look as smooth at first, or at least until they all become comfortable with each other within the confines of the game.
Both Kansas and Missouri had trouble finding their footing throughout that first quarter. Maybe Kansas head coach Mike Berg said it best:
"I think the defense is a little bit ahead of the offense even though we got to practice," he said. "And the offense is feeling out the defense, seeing how they're lining up against certain things."
So almost like in baseball when the pitchers are ahead of the hitters early in the season, the defense was able to react quicker to what the offense was running during the first part of the game. Even Missouri head coach Greg Smith knew the long layoff affect the play.
"I think it did, but the thing I was more worried about was maintaining what made these guys great," he said. "You know, they're all great competitors. I was worried about the second half, if we'd wane a little bit. It seemed like we ramped up instead. We started out a little slow and by about halftime, we had it figured out, and we were ready to play football. I was kind of upset when we went into halftime because we had the momentum going at that point."
After trailing 14-0, Missouri added a late score from Fort Osage running back Ezra Vaoifi to cut the deficit to 14-6.
"I think we were too hyped up," he said. "I don't know what was going on, but it turned into a game after that. All week through practice, we were getting one play or two plays, now we had to go a full series and get used to that, get back into that groove."
Whatever it took, both teams settled in after that first quarter and gave us one of the most exciting all-star games ever.
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