Worth the wait

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Andy Meyer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: August 28, 2016 - 3:45 PM

The very first play from scrimmage set the tone for Smithville’s torrent of takeaways.

Senior Jake Boyd returned a fumble for a touchdown just 11 seconds into the game, and the Warriors steamrolled to a 42-14 victory against Winnetonka on Saturday by forcing seven turnovers.

In all, Smithville snagged three interceptions, forced three fumbles and recovered a mishandled punt, and coach Jason Ambroson said the stellar defensive effort hinged on the opening play.

“It set the tempo from the very beginning,” Ambroson said. “It put us on the board, and it took the pressure off the offense to keep scoring.

“It allowed us to ease into the game and just play.”

The game kicked off Saturday morning after severe weather, including a tornado warning, and a flooded field forced the game to be postponed.

Smithville (2-0) wasted no time grabbing the lead when Rylan Sigg jarred the ball loose, allowing Boyd to scoop it up and run untouched into end zone for a 12-yard score.

“It just gives you more energy,” Boyd said. “Whenever you make a play like that, everyone’s energy level just raises back up.”

Sophomore quarterback Kellen Simoncic added to the lead when he punched the ball in on Smithville’s next possession and nearly made it a three-score game before Winnetonka turned the tide.

Senior Ben Giebler picked off a pass in the end zone and led the Griffins on a scoring drive to pull them within a score, 14-7, late in the first quarter. Winnetonka forced three-and-outs on the next two possessions, putting pressure on Smithville to respond.

“I was really proud of our kids the way they bounced back and made it a game in the first half,” Winnetonka coach Jared Barge said.

The Warriors found an answer when Boyd rumbled in for a touchdown late in the first half, and he accelerated for a 61-yard scoring run — the longest of his career — on the opening drive of the third quarter to make it 28-7.

Boyd finished with a game-high 112 yards and two scores and was often one the Warriors’ biggest impact players in every phase of the game.

“It just feels amazing getting to play both sides of the ball and play on offense and defense,” Boyd said. “And even in the special teams, too.”

Leading by three touchdowns, Smithville’s defense fed off the momentum and soon added to its takeaway tally. Braydon Smith recovered a fumble. Easton Meister stepped in front of a route for an interception.

And late in the third quarter, sophomore Jake Fisher jumped a screen pass and returned it 20 yards for the Warriors’ second defensive touchdown. He also recovered a fumble in the first half.

“They ran it a couple times earlier, and I knew I was going to jump it one of the times,” Fisher said. “That play, I knew it was coming so I got it.”

Simoncic tacked on the Warriors’ final score early in the fourth quarter with a 7-yard toss to Jacob Perez and finished with 87 passing yards.

In the closing stages, Winnetonka put together another scoring drive when Dantee Fearon scored his second rushing touchdown. He tallied a team-high 58 rushing yards, while Giebler passed for 150 yards and grabbed two picks to aid Winnetonka.

The Griffins routinely showed promise and big-play potential but were undermined by costly turnovers and penalties.

“We just made way too many mistakes today. Turnovers killed us,” Barge said. “You just can’t win a football game when you turn the ball over like that.”

The game marked the first time the programs had ever played one another in the first installment of a possible rivalry game. Smithville will join the Suburban Conference beginning in 2018-2019 and would likely match up against the Griffins on an annual basis.

Despite returning only two starters on either side of the ball, Smithville maintains an undefeated record as its enters Midland Empire Conference play, and Ambroson credited his team’s 2-0 start on its ability to make significant strides each week.

“It’s where we wanted to be,” Ambroson said. “We want to be in position to go in next week and win our first conference game, and we’re going to enjoy celebrating a great team win, top to bottom.

“Offense, defense and special teams all had a big role in what we did today, and I’m proud of them.”