One for the ages

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: June 19, 2014 - 10:23 PM

For a quarter it took both teams struggled to find their footing during the 23rd Annual Country Mart Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game at Blue Springs High School. Missouri finally took control in the third quarter and went on to win in a thrilling 22-21 contest, but don't let anyone on either side say this game didn't mean anything.

As the seconds ticked away in the fourth quarter, this had the feel of a November playoff game, never mind the weather, rather than an exhibition all-star game.

"Our defense did a great job pressuring the quarterback because that's what we wanted to do," Missouri head coach Greg Smith said. "We didn't contain him very well. It seemed like in the first half, broken plays came back to hurt us a little bit, but we battled."

The deciding factor was a missed two-point conversion by Missouri that soon after turned into a safety that gave them the one-point decision.

The victory for Missouri evens the series at 11 games apiece.

Each side had its share of fits and starts early on, but Kansas jumped out first when Jason Randall from Leavenworth scored on a two-yard run, and then Danten Cosentino from St. Thomas Aquinas connected with Baldwin’s Chad Berg for a 24-yard strike to lead Missouri 14-0 halfway through the second quarter.

Missouri was able to gain a little momentum just before the intermission when Fort Osage's Ezra Vaoifi barreled in from 14 yards out to cut the deficit to 14-6.

"Being down, we went into halftime thinking about now being down, but thinking about what we were going to do to come back," Vaoifi said. "We had that feeling we knew we needed to bounce back, and we have a bunch of playmakers, that's why we're all stars here. We know what to do when we're in that situation."

Missouri carried that momentum over into the second half when Matthew McCullough from Bishop LeBlond in St. Joseph, Mo., found Grain Valley's Hunter Ramirez for a 26-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was good, and Missouri climbed all the way back to knot the score at 14 apiece.

But Cosentino didn't let Missouri hang around long, and just 1:05 later, hit Nick Oliver from Shawnee Mission South on a 44-yard bomb to put Kansas back up 21-14.

"He made things happen," Kansas coach Mike Berg said of Cosentino's play. "He throws a really good ball on the run. He's a smart kid, and he directed our offense. We knew he could and did a super job."

Missouri then made the two plays of the game. First after Lee's Summit North running back Josh Caldwell muscled his way in on a four-yard run, Missouri head coach Greg Smith opted to go for two. Vaoifi was stopped short of the goal line, and Kansas led 21-20 at the time.

On the ensuing drive, Cosentino made a pitch to his running back that sailed over his head and bounced and bounded toward the Missouri end zone. Several players made an effort to pick the ball up, but it rolled out of the end zone. The referee initially signaled touchback, but after a conference among all the officials, the correct call was made: safety.

Missouri got the two points it lost on the failed two-point conversion during the previous drive and now led 22-21 with 8:19 to play in the game.

Now, Missouri had to hold off the furious onslaught from the Kansas offense. On one series, Staley's Jackson Newman came up with a huge interception to halt the drive. On another series, Kansas attempted a 51-yard field goal and missed. And on the final series of the game, Kansas drove the ball deep enough to take several shots into the end zone with seconds remaining on the clock only to come away empty.

"I think that's the thing more than anything, Kansas vs. Missouri," Smith said. "It's been a rivalry for years and years and years. These kids took that to heart, and it meant a lot to them. It was enough to motivate them for 10 days. We tackled and hit in practiced like I'd never seen before."