Special to the Grove Sun
KANSAS- In the words of Kansas Coach Eddie Barnwell, following the Comets 21-6 victory over Locust Grove, at Dee Neel Field, Thursday night, "It was an ugly win and I’ll take it. We struggled at first, but we stuck together, dominated the second half and finished the job we came to do."
And while the Kansas offense put up 14 unanswered points in the second half, their defense pitched a shutout, as the Pirates only score of the night came as a result of a 63-yard fumble return.
After kicking off to their guests the Comets dug themselves an early defensive hole, as they allowed Locust Grove’s Gavin Fox to take their first snap from scrimmage for a 34-yard scamper deep into Kansas territory. A second penalty-aided series gave the Pirates a first and 10 inside the 15.
But the Comet defense responded by allowing a short gain on first down. That was followed by Christian Sizer’s three-yard sack of Pirate quarterback Chase Knott.
Knott was forced to pass on a third and long. And the Kansas interior smelled the screen, holding the receiver to a one-yard gain. Facing fourth and long, Locust Grove tried and missed a 17-yard field goal opportunity.
Starting their first drive on their own 12, the Comets came out of the blocks with a 30-yard Wade Lewis to Dakota Bright pass and catch. But, after that, Kansas was unable to move much farther than midfield and punted the ball away.
Aided by a Comet penalty and a 35-yard carry by sophomore running back Lane Thigpen, the Pirates picked up another pair of first downs and marched into Kansas territory. And again, the Comet ‘Blackshirts’ held their ground when they pounced on Sergio Natividad’s fumble on the 44 yard line.
With the first quarter coming to a conclusion, Kansas was forced to relinquish the football after a 20-yard Lewis run was negated by an illegal block in the back flag.
The two teams exchanged a pair of punts each to burn most of the second period. But Locust Grove coughed up the football to the Comets on the 24 yard line. After a perfectly executed Lewis to Dakota Watkins option pitch to the Pirate 10, Bright (17 carries for 95 yards), put Kansas on top when he barreled down the left side for the game’s first score. C. J Foreman nailed the PAT for a 7-0 Comet lead.
The Kansas defense forced another three and out by Locust Grove and looked to be on the way to pay dirt with back to back first downs that crossed midfield. But the Pirate’s Derrick Applegate intercepted a Lewis pass to stay down by seven at the intermission.
The second half commenced with Kansas receiving the kickoff. Staying on the ground for 9 of the next 10 snaps, the Comets moved the sticks three times. And just when it looked like they might be able to stuff the football down their opponent’s throats, Kansas put the ball on the ground. The Pirates' Fox scooped up the ball on the run and outran the Comets’ would-be tacklers 63 yards to the goal line. The ensuing 2-point attempt failed, for a 7-6 lead for Kansas.
The Locust Grove kickoff went out of bounds giving the Comets the ball on the 35. But the home offense sputtered and had to punt the ball. Tyler Lankston’s kick bounded off of the back of a Pirate blocker and Kansas jumped on the ball deep in enemy territory. Although the Comets were unable to move the chains, they were winning the battle of field position.
Locust Grove couldn’t move the sticks either and punted the ball away. A good return got the ball all the way to the visitor’s 30 yard line. And on the second snap of the series, with 37 seconds left in the third, Lewis (21 touches for 138 yards) called his own number and improvised a 27-yard touchdown run. Foreman added his 2nd PAT for the 14-6 lead.
Following an exchange of ineffective possessions, the Pirates found themselves with the ball and under 5 minutes to play. Locust Grove found themselves in a deep hole and were forced to go to the air. Again, Kansas shut down their offense and took over the ball on downs. The Comets then overcame another holding penalty and marched to the Pirate two-yard line. And with 2:14 left in the game, Bright scored his second TD of the game to salt away the Kansas victory.
Kansas 21, Locust Grove 6
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
Locust Grove 0 0 6 0 6
Kansas 0 7 7 7 21
K-Bright 10 yard run (Foreman PAT Kick)
L-Fox 63 yard fumble return (2-PT Pass Failed)
K-Lewis 27 yard run (Foreman PAT Kick)
K-Bright 2 yard run (Foreman PAT Kick)