Odessa rolls over Pembroke Hill

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 10, 2018 - 3:02 AM

The best - and maybe only - way to slow down the Odessa offense is to keep them on the sideline, and at the start of tonight’s Class 3 District 7 title game, Pembroke Hill was doing just that. The hard part, as the Raiders found out, is to keep it up for four quarters.

Pembroke Hill ran more than seven minutes off the clock on its opening possession, driving down to the Odessa 15-yard line. But the drive stalled on a fourth-and-6 incompletion. From there, the Bulldogs defense stiffened up, allowing only one first down the rest of the half and getting their electric offense back on the field in a hurry. It led to a 35-0 halftime lead and an eventual 49-6 victory.

“That’s probably the case with a lot of teams, they’re going to try and control the ball against us,” Odessa head coach Mark Thomas said. “We got things under control after that first drive.”

The loss was the first of the season for the Raiders, as they finished the year 11-1.

“We ran into the No. 1 team in the state tonight,” Raiders head coach Sam Knock said. “We played within the game plan in the first quarter. Even the defense, we’ve been kind of bend-but-don’t-break all year, but we just broke sooner than we wanted to.”

Odessa struck first late in the first quarter on a third-and-12 when quarterback Josey Meierarand went over the top to wide receiver Jake Smith for a 57-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0.

Thomas initially thought his quarterback might play it safe on the third-and-long.

“That first pass was kind of a surprise,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t expecting Josey to go to the wide side of the field. He has the option, and I thought he would go with the shorter throw, but he went to the wide side. He has a knack for making good decisions.”

From that point on the Bulldogs leaned heavily on their rushing attack, led by standout Dakota Degraffenried. Of the next 24 plays for the offense until halftime, 18 of them were handoffs to the senior tailback.

“We got rolling after that (touchdown pass). That really opened things up for us,” Degraffenried said. “We knew with the weather we were going to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. And with our great offensive line, we were perfectly fine with that.”

Degraffenried’s first touchdown of the night came early in the second quarter from 2 yards out to make it 14-0. On the next three possessions for the Raiders, they had two fumbles and an interception, all of which gave Odessa the ball in Raider territory to start its ensuing drive.

And all three ended with touchdowns - two from Degraffenried and one from Jonas Bennett - to give the Bulldogs a commanding 35-0 lead at the half.

“When we can turn the ball over that’s big,” Thomas said. “We’ve got some kids on defense that can make some plays.”

Degraffenried and Bennett each added a touchdown in the second half.

Pembroke Hill got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when quarterback Innis McLiney scampered into the end zone from 13 yards out.

It was a difficult end to what had been an impressive season from the Raiders.

“We knew this was going to be a good year for us,” Knopik said. “These guys did a good job early in their careers being weight room guys. They put the time in on their own. The seniors bought in.”

For Odessa, they improve to 12-0 and advance to the state quarterfinals where defending Class 3 champion Maryville awaits next Saturday. They are just two wins away from a berth in the stat title game, but Thomas is making sure his team doesn’t look ahead.

“We definitely spend a lot of time discussing that with them,” Thomas said. “We don’t want them looking too far ahead. We have a big challenge in Maryville.”