Two minutes changed everything

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Dave McQueen PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: June 13, 2019 - 10:58 PM

Complete Box Score and Play by Play

Billy Conaway Jr. kept the faith, even as his Kansas teammates stumbled into an early two-touchdown deficit. The Shawnee Mission North grad believed – and made sure the rest of the Kansas All-Stars believed – that they would turn it around.

And quickly.

“It took three minutes,” Conaway said. “I told them it was going to take two, but it took three.”

Actually, it took just over two minutes for Kansas to take control of the 28th annual Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game. Kansas scored three touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half, which started a 35-point run that sealed a 35-21 victory over Missouri’s all stars on a beautiful Thursday night at the College Boulevard Activity Center in Olathe.

Missouri had a 14-0 lead and all the momentum when Kansas struck for touchdowns on offense, special teams and defense. A short Missouri punt set up the first score, a 3-yard quarterback keeper from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Tate Raboin with 2:02 left before halftime.

Missouri went three and out and punted on its next possession, but the kick by Smithville’s Brian Boyd landed in the stomach of Mill Valley’s Christian Roth, who ran untouched 18 yards into the end zone with 1:42 left.

And with 38 seconds to go, Shane Skwarlo of Lawrence Free State recovered a fumble in the end zone after Missouri running back John Eldridge of Lee’s Summit North lost the ball near the goal line.

Just like that, Kansas had a 21-14 lead with more points to come.

“It was just a huge momentum shift,” Skwarlo said. “We needed a big play. My outside backer set the edge really well, stripped the ball and I was there.”

Conaway had a hand in Kansas’ turnaround too. He’s a wide receiver, but on this night he was a ground gainer, slashing his way to 165 rushing yards and a touchdown on 12 carries as he was selected the Kansas team’s Most Valuable Player.

“For my team, I had to be an ironman,” Conaway said. “I had to do whatever my team needed. I wasn’t thinking to (run) that much. Literally the night before in practice I’m like coach, I’m still a little doubtful on the offense. He said, ‘Just trust it.’”

Kansas coach Bob Lisher trusted Conaway could provide some yardage in the flexbone offense.

“We had some guys we thought we could put in the slot and throw them the ball or run with them,” said Lisher, who retired as Free State’s head coach after last season. “It just worked out that he ran the ball pretty well tonight.”

Conaway found the end zone in the third quarter on a 4-yard run that capped a 12-play, 74-yard drive. Kansas needed only one play on its next possession – a 47-yard pass over the middle from Raboin to a wide-open Logan Talley of Mill Valley – for its next score and a 35-14 lead.

“We just had to dig deep,” said Conaway, who will play next fall at South Dakota. “We got back in the game, and then we had that spark, and we just kept it moving.”

Missouri had that spark early as it took advantage of a couple of Kansas mistakes in taking its two-touchdown lead. Missouri’s first score – a 3-yard TD run up the middle by Odessa running back and Missouri MVP Jonas Bennett in the first quarter – came after a Kansas fumble at midfield.

Midway through the second quarter, quarterback Shaun Ross of Van Horn put Missouri up 14-0 on a 10-yard TD run one play after a bizarre turnover. As Raboin pitched the ball to Talley, Jake Fisher of Smithville snagged the ball and ran it back 36 yards.

“We were struggling up to that point,” Lisher said. “We were moving the ball offensively but we were hurting ourselves and they were taking the ball away from us. Then we finally got things to click in the second quarter.”

Missouri did get another score – a 57-yard TD pass from Kellen Simoncic of Smithville to Harold Trainer of Grandview late in the fourth quarter – but it was never the same after that second-quarter onslaught.

“We shot ourselves in the foot and we weren’t able to bounce back from it,” Missouri coach William Harris of Van Horn said. “If we could have rode that momentum we had early in the first quarter, things could have been different.”

Missouri still leads the all-time series 14-13 (with one cancellation), but Kansas now has won two straight after breaking Missouri’s seven-game winning streak last season. Lisher got to go out on a winning streak, too. The winning coach in the 2010 game, he has won all six times he’s served on the Kansas coaching staff.

“Going out on the Kansas side and winning six is pretty special,” said Lisher, who will coach the offensive line next season at William Chrisman. “I’m excited about it.”