Staley stops Kearney to stay unbeaten
By David Svoboda PrepsKC Staff Writer
Games between two rivals – especially when those foes are two of the better teams in their respective classifications – often come down to execution in the key moments.
Thus was the case Friday night at Staley, as the Falcons – newly minted as Missouri Class 5’s No. 1 ranked team, held on late to down Class 4Kearney by a 22-10 margin in a game that was a one-score affair until just over a minute remained.
Staley moved to 5-0 with the victory, while Kearney fell to 3-2.
“I thought our defense bailed us out,” said Staley coach Fred Bouchard. “It was a physical battle all night.”
Though their rivalry has existed for but four years, these two schools have traded blows since the outset, and this contest was no different.
But it was a bit strange.
In the opening half, both teams fumbled kickoff returns, Staley blocked a Kearney punt that led to a short-field touchdown, there was a Staley safety after a directional kickoff pinned Kearney deep in its own end, and there were four separate fourth-down conversions – two by each team.
Wacky stuff, to be sure.
After Kearney lost a fumble on the opening kickoff, Staley grabbed a 7-0 lead just four plays later, as senior Morgan Steward grabbed a 29-yard pass from QB Trent Hosick on fourth and seven to put the Falcons on top.
But the Bulldogs responded with one of the best drives of the young season for either team.
Mixing the run and the pass, converting twice on third downs and twice more on fourth down plays, Kearney moved 78 yards in 20 plays over 7:57 before Brock Broughton scored from two yards out to tie it at 7-7.
“We need to be able to make adjustments a little earlier than what we did,” Bouchard said of the frustration he felt mounting as Kearney methodically moved the ball against his defense while eating clock in the process. “We can’t settle for getting those adjustments made after the fact.”
It was then Staley’s turn to fumble a kickoff return, and Kearney capitalized quickly, taking its lone lead of the night just four plays later as Alex Prewitt banged home a 27-yard field goal to give the visitors a 10-7 edge with just under two minutes left in the opening quarter.
A play just over a minute and a half later set the tone for the field position battle that took place in quarter No. 2.
Staley’s Hosick threw a deep ball interception on a second and three call from the Kearney 48, but his defensive mates soon made the errant throw into a scoring opportunity of their own. After stuffing Kearney on three straight plays from the Bulldog eight, Staley blocked an A.J. Shippert punt and recovered on the five.
In just two plays, Hosick was in the end zone and Staley was up for good, 14-10.
But the wacky first half wasn’t done unfolding yet. Following Hosick’s TD run, Staley kicked off deep and into a hole in the Kearney return team. By the time returner Grant Leeth was able to run the ball down, he was swarmed under by a host of black shirts at his three. Two plays later, Kearney QB Cole Davis was being sacked in his own end zone by Staley senior Matt Harmon for a safety that made it 16-10. Harmon sacked Davis three times on the night and generally had the junior running for his life.
But from this point, with 10:28 left in the first half, until Staley scored with just 1:19 left in the game as a deflated Kearney defense allowed Steward to put the icing on the cake from 34 yards out, the teams fell victim to solid defense and their own inability to be consistent on offense.
The 33:09 without any scoring saw pooch kicks, regular punts, illegal blocks, sacks and missed field goals. It also saw penalties for false starts, illegal substitution and holding…plus a sideline warning on Kearney.
In other words, as good as the defenses were, they got plenty of help…and the coaches were given plenty to review with their teams on film in an attempt to get better.
“We’ve got an awful lot to learn from this,” Bouchard said. “And one of those things we need to learn is that we’ve got to practice on Mondays and Tuesdays with a lot more fervor.”
And despite the loss, Kearney coach Greg Jones was proud of his team’s effort. And his message to his team following the contest was a simple one: learn from the game, but then move on.
“You can’t move forward when you’re looking in the rear view mirror,” he said.
And these two powers have a lot to look forward to in the weeks to come.
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