Smithville's second-half surge tops Benton

By Bill Knust PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 12, 2015 - 7:19 AM

Smithville running back Zach Granger could never recall a game, let alone a half, as productive as what was on display Friday night in front of the home fans. The senior led Smithville’s second-half onslaught over St. Joseph Benton to the tune of 38-7.

No, not even a pee-wee football game years ago could match what Granger did. All told, he finished the contest with 193 yards rushing on 17 carries with three touchdowns — 169 of those yards and all three touchdowns coming in the second half.

The Warriors outscored the Cardinals 28-0 in the second half. They scored 21 of those points in just 3 minutes, 52 seconds.

Granger wasted little time going to work in the second half, taking the first play from scrimmage 51 yards to paydirt.

“Once I got by all my blockers I saw the hole and hit it pretty hard,” Granger said. “I ran as fast as I could. I’m not very fast, but I ran as hard as I could.”

His speed proved plenty fast enough. After Smithville linebacker Jake Boyd picked off Cardinals’ quarterback Cooper Burton two plays later, Granger was back at it. This time he covered 21 yards to make it 24-7 with only 1:49 gone in the third quarter.

Smithville, and especially Granger, made most of its hay on the counter play in the second half.

“We just finally blocked it,” Smithville coach Jason Ambroson said. “When you block people things usually run better. Now, (Benton) was so worried about the bootleg and keeping (quarterback) Mitch (Orr) inside, it worked well. We weren’t crisp early, but once we got off the ball and got in a little bit of a grove the kids took care of the line of scrimmage.”

Things continued to snowball on Benton. After a three-and-out, Smithville covered 61 yards in four plays. The final 32 came on a touchdown pass from Orr to receiver JD Benbow, and the game had officially gotten out of hand with 8:08 still to play in the third quarter.

One play into the fourth quarter Granger capped his night. He darted around the left end for a 39-yard score, and the Warriors had done their best to erase an awful first half.

“We were gross in the first half,” Ambroson said. “We tried to force things. We weren’t getting off the ball, and we weren’t blocking very well. Our defense kept us in it early. We had so many turnovers, but our defense kept us in it.”

It was an all-around sloppy first half of play. The two teams combined to throw five interceptions, and Benton’s only score came after an interception was returned inside the Smithville 10-yard-line early in the first quarter.

However, Smithville’s defense caused fits for Benton all night. The Cardinals finished with only three first downs against the Warriors’ No. 1 unit. Smithville’s first-team defense allowed Benton just 119 yards of total offense and only 24 in the second half.

“There were four plays that they really hurt us on, and fortunately for us they made (penalties) on those plays, too,” Ambroson said. “Your fortunate in those situations, and you have to regroup. … I felt like we dodged some bullets there, but our kids kept playing.”

Warriors’ safety Tanner Hartman finished the night with two interceptions and also had a punt return for a touchdown called back in the fourth quarter.

The win moved the Warriors to 3-1 and 2-0 in the Midland Empire Conference.