by CODY BYERS
(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) — The Warrensburg High School Tigers fell 34-12 Friday to rival Sedalia Smith-Cotton at Audrey J. Walton Stadium.
The game started as a defensive battle. Then Smith-Cotton got the ball for the second time. The Warrensburg defense was strong, forcing a fourth down for Sedalia. Smith-Cotton senior Zach Powell picked up the first down, and then a Warrensburg face-mask penalty put the ball at midfield for the visitors.
Brandon Neale broke the floodgates open with a 53-yard touchdown run. Warrensburg didn’t muster any countering offense, and Sedalia took over and immediately attacked through the air. A pass from senior quarterback Jaden Kendrick to Seth Lathan pushed Smith-Cotton into enemy territory. Gauge Young then took it 34 yards to the house.
The PAT gave Smith-Cotton a 14-0 lead. Warrensburg still couldn’t get the offense rolling, going three and out. But the defense stepped up big as they stopped Smith-Cotton on a fourth down. Warrensburg’s offense again struggled, but completed a pass to pick up a first down until a holding call brought it back.
On WHS’s second attempt of third-and-8, Jaden Kendrick took the ball outside and out-of-bounds where a Smith-Cotton defender plowed him onto the track. This prompted a personal foul penalty against Smith-Cotton. It wasn’t enough for a first down though, as Warrensburg had to punt the ball away again.
Smith-Cotton moved the ball down the field with a pass-run mix and then lightning struck again with a 44-yard touchdown run by Gauge Young. That run put Warrensburg in a must-score situation to stay in the game, but Warrensburg quarterback Ejyah Sheridan’s pass was intercepted by Smith-Cotton early in the drive.
Smith-Cotton looked to take advantage of another big play when Kendrick threw it deep to Korbin Scott, but defensive pass interference by Warrensburg forced the pass incomplete. However, that penalty moved Smith-Cotton to the red zone, and they took advantage with a touchdown run from Kendrick. Smith-Cotton took a 27-0 lead into halftime.
Warrensburg looked much better in the second half on both sides of the ball. Connor Burson intercepted a Smith-Cotton pass, but the offense failed to capitalize. Then the defensive gridlock started again until late in the third when Warrensburg got the drive they needed.
They ran and passed efficiently all the way down the field but eventually were met with a fourth-and-12 from 14 yards out from the end zone. Sheridan then hit Dalton Nappe for Warrensburg’s first touchdown of the evening. After an unsuccessful PAT attempt, the home team thrilled the crowd with a successful onside kick.
The offense couldn’t score, however, until a couple possessions later when Nappe caught his second touchdown of the game for Warrensburg. The following 2-point conversion was unsuccessful. The Warrensburg defense then showed their first cracks of the second half, giving up a late touchdown to Smith-Cotton for the final score of 34-12.
First-year Warrensburg head coach Chris Cavanah said the squad is a work in progress. He said he has been very impressed by his players so far in this young season.
The WHS Tigers travel to Odessa Friday, Sept. 8, for a 7 p.m. game against the Bulldogs, looking to improve on their 1-2 start.