Lee's Summit holds off Belton

By Dave McQueen PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 2, 2018 - 8:45 AM

One thing’s certain about Lee’s Summit’s football team this season: When confronted with a little adversity, the Tigers aren’t going to fold.

One week after roaring back from a third-quarter deficit, Lee’s Summit overcame a late fumble with a goal-line stand in the final seconds and preserved a 27-22 victory over Belton Friday night at Bud Hertzog Stadium in Lee’s Summit.

Lee’s Summit (2-0) never trailed, but they never put away Belton (1-1) either. And when the Tigers coughed up the ball on the Pirates’ 45-yard line with 3 minutes 30 seconds left in the game, that five-point lead seemed slim indeed.

Even slimmer considering Belton had already gashed Lee’s Summit for several long drives and more than 400 yards of offense.

It became razor-thin when Belton quarterback Andrew Clark led an 11-play drive to the Lee’s Summit 1-yard line with 56 seconds left in the game. But after watching his team rally for 25 straight points to beat Liberty the week before, Lee’s Summit coach Eric Thomas didn’t expect the Tigers to fold.

“I knew they were going to react,” Thomas said. “I was just worried we weren’t going to have enough time to score if they scored. But our kids just did a great job down there at the end.”

With Belton facing second and goal on the Tigers’ one and the clock ticking down, Clark handed the ball off to running back Ayden Holt, who had bulled up the middle the previous play. But this time he was met in the backfield by Lee’s Summit linebacker Felix Anudike and thrown back for a two-yard loss.

“I knew there was a gap open and I needed to help my team out,” Anudike said. “I just read my key and I tackled him.”

Clark was stuffed for a three-yard loss on the next play and the Pirates faced fourth and goal with 29.5 seconds left. Then he found Ezekiel Henson in the back of the end zone, and the Pirates started celebrating.

A holding call ended that celebration and moved the Pirates back to the 22. Another throw to the end zone fell incomplete.

“That’s three times we had the ball inside the red zone and didn’t score,” Belton coach Todd Vaughn said. “You can’t do that and win football games. We made some mistakes tonight.”

Clark completed 16 of 26 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown, and running back Jamall Baker had 125 yards on 26 carries, but Belton couldn’t overcome Lee’s Summit’s quarterback tandem of Kaia Tupinio and Darrias Pearsall, who were clicking from the beginning.

Tupinio and Pearsall alternated plays from the Tigers first possession, which ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Tupinio to Micah Manning. Tupinio, a junior transfer from Fort Osage, had 122 yards rushing and 54 passing; Pearsall finished with 88 rushing yards.

“They both did a tremendous job,” Thomas said. “I think you saw why we need to play both of them. Both of them have things to offer to our offense and both of them played really well.”

Belton only ran three plays before Tyler Perry nabbed a pass from Belton quarterback Clark at midfield and returned it for a 14-0 lead.

Belton put together a 14-play drive on its next possession that ended with a three-yard TD run by Clark on the first play of the second quarter. Lee’s Summit made it 21-7 on a 15-yard Tupinio TD run, and Belton’s Joshua Riley kicked a 23-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, which saw Lee’s Summit lose a fumble on the Belton 2-yard line.

“We should have we put them away in the third quarter,” Thomas said. “We’ve just got to take care of the ball better. We had some things going offensively and defensively, we just should have put them away in the third quarter.”

That fumble looked costly when Clark tossed a 40-yard TD pass to Antione Nunn Jr. early in the fourth quarter. Lee’s Summit responded quickly with a four-play 80-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard Tupinio to Manning TD pass.

Clark scored on a 7-yard keeper on Belton’s next possession to make it 27-22, Lee’s Summit fumbled and the nail-biter was on.

And the Tigers would pass another stress test.

“It’s (a win) that we can learn from,” Thomas said. “Our kids hung in there and got a win. That’s the exciting part.”