Paola flexes its muscle
By David Svoboda PrepsKC staff writer
With his Paola Panthers gathered near midfield after an impressive 36-0 thrashing of Frontier League rival DeSoto Friday night, Coach Mike Dumpert reminded his victorious troops how they got there.
It was preparation, pure and simple.
“It sounds cliché,” he said. “But you can play fast and play with confidence if you feel prepared.”
Four solid days of practice, Dumpert told his players, were the key to setting the win over the Wildcats into motion.
That and a dominating run game.
Paola ran the ball an unofficial 53 times for 338 yards in the victory, with senior running back Tyler Henness picking up 110 and two TDs on 25 carries.
Senior quarterback Seth Kern had 120 yards on just 10 attempts of his own, including a nifty 67-yard, third-quarter scamper in which he zigzagged through DeSoto defenders and was seemingly at a standstill at least twice.
Paola jumped in front just under three minutes into the game and never looked back. The Panthers’ Brandon Goodman intercepted a pass by DeSoto QB Zach Atchison on the Wildcats’ third play from scrimmage, and Paola was in the end zone just 4 plays and 21 yards later.
Tanner Staats’ 10-yard run capped the short-field drive, with Henness going over for the two-point conversion after a half-the-distance penalty on the try put Paola in position to go for two.
Little did anyone assembled know that the game was virtually over at that point.
“The big pick we got in the beginning of the game was huge,” said Henness of the effort by Goodman that led to Paola’s first score. “We feed off of each other, and that was an example.”
And on this night Paola went back for seconds.
The most impressive Panther drive of the evening wiped out the final 6:55 of the first quarter and the first half minute of the second.
Paola went 83 yards in 16 plays, all on the ground, with Henness going over from one yard out to up the lead to 15-0. The talented senior had 36 yards by himself during the possession, which also featured a nifty 14-yard run by Kern on 3rd and 2 about a third of the way through the drive.
And while Paola’s ground game was mighty impressive in building the early lead, the defense was just as good, holding DeSoto to just 65 yards of total offense in the opening half before senior Cole Cannon broke off a 37-yard run for the Wildcats with just three plays remaining in the first 24 minutes.
DeSoto contributed to its own woes, fumbling once, throwing three interceptions and committing five penalties in the first half alone.
But make no mistake, this one was more a case of what Paola did than what DeSoto failed to do.
DeSoto, in fact, only threatened the goal line once, being denied on a 4th and 1 at the Paola 7-yard-line with 7:32 left in the contest.
“I really liked the intensity and speed we played with,” Dumpert said. “That’s who we are. We want to shorten the game and run it right at you.”
Henness pointed to another key – mental toughness – as a major contributor to the outcome.
“Being in shape is one thing, but not being discouraged if you don’t pop a big one is important, too,” he said.
Indeed, as impressive as he was, Henness had just four runs of 10 yards or more, the long being a 25-yard effort on his second-to-last carry of his night.
The second half was a bit anti climatic as the 22-0 halftime edge allowed Paola a comfortable cushion to work with – and Kern’s 67-yard highlight film dash was the final dagger…except for one last one-yard Henness TD, that is.
All-in-all, it was a good night for Dumpert and his troops, who now move into a solid position as the frontrunner for the Frontier crown at 2-0. DeSoto falls to 1-1.
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