Smithville gets sixth straight over Chillicothe
By Marc Bowman PrepsKC staff writer
It took just a single spark to turn the whole game around.
The Chillicothe Hornets dominated for most of the first half, driving deep into Smithville Warriors territory on each of their first four possessions. The Hornets were denied by the Warriors the first three possessions, but gained ground with each exchange of punts as Smithville was unable to generate any offense.
Finally, Chillicothe broke through with senior Kyle Ross scoring on a four-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 3:14 left in the half.
“We came out a little flat in the first half,” Warriors coach Josh Speer said. “They got a score on us early. Defensively wasn’t very good in the first half. Offensively, not very good in the first half, also.“
Then lightning struck in the form of senior Mitchell Orr as he returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a tying score. It was all Smithville after that as they surged to a 20-7 win on senior night.
“We just knew we needed some momentum,” he said. “After that we got a lot of momentum and the sidelines started getting up, we started cheering, we started getting loud. Everybody on the field started getting more energy, so it was really pivotal for us. We came out extremely flat. Nothing was working for us and that was the spark that got us going.”
“That was a huge momentum builder for us,” Speer said. “Mitch hit a seam and he went, and we built off of that. That was a huge turning point for us in the game.”
The return was a designed play that had been developed in practice.
“We worked on it all week and we knew we were going to get one sooner or later,” Orr said. “Coach (Todd) Misenhelter told me ‘you can take this back; just do it’ and I said ‘I’m going to get it done’. We had it all designed, but it wasn’t me. I did the least amount of work. They did all the blocks for me. They opened up a wide hole and (sophomore) J.D. (Benbow) is running all the way down the field all the way throwing a block for me. I couldn’t ask for anything else from my teammates.”
Orr felt he had a chance to score his first return TD since freshman football when he received the kick.
“As soon as I caught it I looked forward,” he said. “I said ‘if this guy gets blocked, there’s a good chance I could take this’. Sure enough, two guys took him out of the play and J.D. was all the way down the field throwing the final block for me. It was awesome.”
The Warriors forced a three-and-out punt then drove to the Hornets 12-yard-line, aided by Orr’s 32-yard pass to senior Riley Gesling to the Chillicothe 18, setting up a go-ahead, 30-yard field goal by junior Sam Aviles with 25.3 seconds remaining in the half.
Smithville kept the spark in the second half. The Warriors scored on their first two possessions, increasing their lead to 20-7.
“We got after them at halftime, made some adjustments for the second half and we played a lot better in the second half,” Speer said. “Second half, we came out and played a lot better, had some success running the ball, and we built off of that. We came out a little flat; different emotions with senior night and with coach not being here. We responded and Mitch has been our spark all year. That was a huge play for us and a huge momentum builder for us.”
Again, Orr was in the middle of the action, connecting on a 23-yard strike to Benbow, taking the ball to the Hornets 16. Aviles followed with a 35-yard field goal at the 8:01 mark of the third quarter.
Benbow completed the scoring on Smithville’s next offensive play, taking the option pitch from Orr and rushing around the left end for a 51-yard touchdown.
The victory sealed a home-field playoff game for the Warriors October 23.
“It’s so exciting,” Orr said. “Having our fans and playing on this field. We know everything about this field and our fans here are awesome, so it helps us so much.”
Smithville (6-2, 5-1 in district) has beaten Chillicothe (5-3, 3-3 in district) six straight years, having last lost to the Hornets in 2009.
The Warriors finish regular-season play Friday at Cameron.
It was the second consecutive district loss for the Hornets who will wrap up their regular-season schedule Friday with a home game against Benton.
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