Kearney is top dog
By Brian Spano PrepsKC Staff Writer
KEARNEY, Mo. – In what has turned out to be one of the better, and maybe even bitter, rivalries in the Kansas City metro area, the Kearney Bulldogs shut down the Staley Falcons 21-3 Friday night.
A crowd of several thousand, standing room only, packed into the Kearney stadium on a clear moonlit night, and those wearing the Bulldog purple went home happy.
There were several noteworthy news items that came out of this game.
First, it was the 100th career victory for Kearney head coach Greg Jones. Second, it increased the Bulldogs’ winning streak to 14 games, dating back to last season when Staley beat them 21-7 in week five. Next, Staley was without its top running back Evan Campbell due to injury. And finally, in just two-and-a-half seasons of football for the Staley Falcons, the program has a grand total of five losses, four of which are to the Kearney Bulldogs.
The meetings between these two schools have been physical in tense, and Friday night was no exception.
Kearney’s defense set the tone with five turnovers, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions, something it has excelled at all season.
“I like to think we do a good job preparing our kids,” said Jones. “We tell them you control two things effort and attitude, and we control the rest. Our defensive staff did an incredible job, our kids played incredible, and I’m proud of them.”
Going in, this was a matchup of two very potent offenses, and it had the makings of a track meet, but it was the Bulldog defense and Falcon errors that were the big story.
Kearney, 4-0 and 3-0 in the Suburban Small Six Conference, led 14-0 at the half coming off of two touchdown passes from Shane Hartzler to Sam Gregory. Late in the second half, Staley was marching. Quarterback Michael Rich hit Chris Stumpf on a crossing patter near the 15-yard line, and Stumpf took inside the five, but when he was taken down, he lost the ball, and Kearney recovered at its own 2-yard line.
“We turned the ball over, and that’s always going to be an issue,” said Staley head coach Fred Bouchard. “It wasn’t so much that they shut us down as we probably didn’t execute some things, and when we did move the ball, there were turnovers that were part of that.
“We’ll have to go back and clean up some of the mistakes we made. We know we can be a good football team, but if we turn the ball over that our chances become definitely diminished.”
It wasn’t just turnovers lost, it was also turnovers missed for Staley (4-1 and 2-1 in the conference). Defensive back Jalen Brown mishandled a ball thrown directly into his numbers with nothing but real estate in front of him. It would have quite possibly gone for a touchdown and swung the momentum.
Staley’s other scoring opportunity came early in the first half when Rich hit Chris Witcig for 60 yards to set up a first and goal from the six. The Bulldog defense buckled down, allowing just a field goal.
“Our defense, yeah they’re pretty good, especially the swagger they have,” said Kearney wide receiver Ryan Rische. “The defense works for the offense because the defense sets up the offense.”
The Bulldogs offense may not have had the cushy field position that it has enjoyed in past games this season, but the way the defense stifled Staley, it didn’t need it.
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