East outlasts Southwest in IL battle

By Toriano Porter PrepsKC Staff Writer
Posted: October 2, 2015 - 11:52 PM

Somewhere on the east side of Kansas City, the East Bears are marveling at the thought of shutting down Southwest Early College Campus running back Howard Rice.

While he left his dance moves for Saturday night’s Homecoming soriee, Rice dazzled during the first half of Friday's Interscholastic League game between the Bears and host Indians.

Rice, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior, scored four touchdowns on an array of moves that included broken tackles, stiff arms and jukes. He also had a 60-yard punt return.

Head turning stats for sure, but a gut-check for the Bears helped keep Rice out of the end zone in the second half of East's 41-36 come-from-behind win at IL Stadium.

"The game plan was to stop him," Xanthanus Pierro, a wide receiver/defensive back/returner turned quarterback for East, said of Rice. "I have to give Howard a lot of credit, he runs incredibly hard.

“But, one thing we were doing on defense was we were arm-tackling. In the second half, we said, you know what, he bleeds like us, he stretches like us and he is a man just like we are. We had to stick it in there and grind it out.”

The win gave East head coach Greg Smith’s team a sense of purpose after they improved to 3-4 overall on the season and 3-0 in the IL.

“We’re hungry,” Smith said. “This is just one step. Our goal is more than just winning the IL. We want to win a district. The only way the IL will get respect is to beat teams outside of the league. We needed this to get us ready. Every one of our losses has prepared us for this.”

Southwest fell to 2-4 overall on the season while suffering their first loss in two IL games.

“The effort was there,” Southwest head coach Roger Franks said. “We definitely made some mistakes to put ourselves in the situation that we were in. East is a good ballclub. It’s a reason they are (undefeated) in the league. They played well. They made the big plays and we didn’t.”

Pierro was just as deadly for East. The 5-8 senior had a rushing touchdown, threw two touchdown passes and collected an interception on defense. Normally a wide receiver, Pierro had to fill in for starting quarterback DeWayne Charles.

"Coach said lead the team," Pierro said. "Even when I’m not playing quarterback he said ‘lead your team.’ I just said, ‘Coach, I’m going to do whatever you need me to do and whatever is best for team.’"

Both teams had their share of the yips early. East fumbled the ball on its first two possessions of the game while Southwest coughed it up on their first.

Southwest took advantage of the first miscue, marching 53 yards for a score. The seven-play drive was capped on a third and 1 play from the East 28-yard line when Rice ran off tackle and eluded Bear defenders for a touchdown run.

The score put the Indians ahead 6-0 with 7 minutes, 46 seconds left in the first quarter.

After East’s second fumble, Southwest was forced to punt, but it was partially blocked. East took over at the Indians’ 24-yard line at the 6:00 mark of the opening quarter.

Two plays later, Pierro - the Bears’ answer to Rice on the night - took a quarterback keeper 19 yards for a touchdown. Pierro’s successful two-point conversion run put the Bears up 8-6 with 5:44 showing on the clock.

Rice, however, answered for the Indians. He gained 10 yards on one attempt in the 53-yard drive, then another tough 8-yard run. 

After a a couple of Larahn Walker runs that totaled 15 yards, quarterback Darias Jones was stopped for a 5-yard loss that resulted in a third-and-10 from the 25.

No sweat for Rice, who banged his way for a 9-yard gain to set up a fourth-and-1.

Walker’s 2-yard gain gave the Indians a first-and-10 from the 13-yard line.

Rice then capped the drive with a 13-yard scoring run that made the score 12-8 with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter. Rice’s successful conversion run made it 14-8.

East immediately answered with a 74-yard kickoff return from Ronnell Hatchett. The Bears failed conversion attempt left the score tied 14-14.

Taking over at their 40-yard line, Southwest put together a 60-yard scoring drive that ended with a Rice 21-yard touchdown run three minutes into the second quarter. A successful two-point conversion gave Southwest a 22-14 lead.

Hatchett’s 29-yard run from the East 48-yard line gave the Bears a first and 10 from the Indians’ 23, but a penalty and a couple of miscues forced the Bears into a third-and-long situation from the 39.

Pierro’s 12-yard run gave the Bears a reasonable chance on fourth-and-13 from the 26.

Pierro connected with Aric Marks for a 20-yard reception that resulted in a first and goal from the 6-yard line with 6 minutes left before halftime.

One play later, Pierro ran up the middle for a Bear score that made the score 22-20 in favor of Southwest after the Indians held firm on the subsequent two-point attempt.

Rice continued his masterful ground attack, scoring his fourth touchdown in the opening half with less than 3 minutes to go before half. Southwest took that 28-20 lead into the break.

“Howard Rice has been a solid kid since I had him as a freshman,” Franks said. “He’ll have a chance to play ball outside of high school.”

The back and forth continued in the third quarter. East's David Wilson scored on a 6-yard run with 5:12 left in the third. A successful conversion tied the score at 28-28.

Three minutes later, Pierro found wide receiver Sharod Benton wide open for a 58-yard touchdown. The score put the Bears ahead 34-28.

Adrian Orozco's pick with 7:08 remaining  gave a East a first down at their 36.

The turnover proved fruitful for East after Pierro’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Hatchett with 4:06 left. The extra point kick made the score 41-28.

Southwest closed the gap to 41-34 with 2:23 remaining on a 7-yard run by Jones. They narrowed the lead to five after a successful two-point conversion.

The Indians recovered the onside kick but it was nullified after game officials determined a Southwest player touched the ball before it went 10 yards.

Southwest then forced a turnover with 1:32 to go. The Indians had to go 48 yards for a touchdown and win, but the East defense held its ground to force a turnover on downs.

“We are real fortunate to get the win,” Pierro said.