Ending on a high note

Kyle Yehle/PrepsKC

By Kyle Yehle PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 13, 2017 - 10:27 PM

The game to determine the last West Central Conference football champion lived up to its billing.

In a wild back-and-forth struggle, Class 5 No. 9 Smith-Cotton surged back from a 26-13 third-quarter deficit to claim a 43-32 victory over Class 3 No. 6 Center at Center Stadium.

"It's big for our kids to go out as the last champions of the WCC," Smith-Cotton head coach Charlie McFail said. "It gets us ready for our district also. We aren't going to see teams with any tougher athletes than what we saw tonight."

Center went into the halftime break holding a 20-10 lead over the Tigers. Smith-Cotton opened the final half with a field goal, but Yellowjacket senior quarterback Amaun Ryan answered with the first play of the next drive. Ryan gunned his fourth touchdown pass of the night on a seamless 80-yard hook-and-ladder play to versatile senior Jeremiah Wilson for the 26-13 lead and game's momentum.

Emotions shifted again immediately.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tiger senior speedster Zach Powell blazed a 96-yard path to a touchdown - and also ran in the two-point conversion - closing the gap to 26-21 with 8:36 left in the third frame.

"I'll always say about kickoff returns, a return for a touchdown will flip the momentum your way big," Powell said.

Center punted on their next possession, and Smith-Cotton's senior tailback Gauge Young capped off a five-play 44-yard drive with a four-yard plunge for the go-ahead score. Smith-Cotton led for the first time 29-26 with less than four minutes before the final quarter.

Center scored from two-yards out on their next drive to retake the lead 32-29, but the Tigers' Powell struck again for the game-winning score almost two minutes later with a 31-yard burst down the visitor sideline.

"They wore us out a little bit," Center head coach Bryan DeLong said. "It was a battle. Hopefully, that'll teach us some things [heading into district play]."