Grandview hosted William Chrisman. Ruskin and Center hit the road
By Max Goodwin
By the time Friday night arrived, it had been a long, exciting week for area high school teams building up to the first games of the season.
Ruskin and Center opened the season on the road, both playing in St. Joseph. Center overwhelmed Lafayette (St. Joseph), 61-7, for a Yellowjackets win. Ruskin lost at Central (St. Joseph), 49-14.
Grandview hosted William Chrisman, and struck first against the Bears after intercepting a first quarter pass. By the end of the night, Grandview’s early lead and excitement to start the season was deflated in a 21-14 loss.
“When you have kids that are not used to Friday night football, sometimes the lights are big and the energy going in can drain them,” Grandview coach Dan Joiner said after the game.
The Bulldog defense locked down William Chrisman in the first half. The only score of the half for Chrisman came after a punt went over the head of a Bulldogs returner and was downed at the one-yard line.
Next, a snap over the head of Grandview quarterback Joseph Lepak and was recovered for a touchdown by the Bears. The teams went into halftime tied, 7-7.
“When you have a lot of young kids without a lot of experience, mistakes are going to happen,” Joiner said.
William Chrisman came out of halftime with quarterback Mitchell Cory throwing a touchdown pass to take the lead after a long drive that took several minutes off the clock and tired the Grandview defense.
Grandview responded with a drive of its own for a touchdown. Lepak connected with senior receiver Griouard Weddington down the sideline for a big gain to move the Bulldogs into the red zone and set them up for the scoring run.
Joiner dialed up two running plays and senior KK Wright ran up the middle for a touchdown to start the fourth quarter tied, 14-14.
The game would come down to the challenge of tackling William Chrisman running back Anthony Miller for Grandview defenders. He burst through the Grandview line and into the secondary repeatedly, looking like a high school student doing his best impersonation of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.
“They did a good job exploiting us with a run-pass mix-up, then primarily ran in the second half,” Joiner said.
After the Grandview touchdown by Wright, Miller gashed the Bulldogs defense for 70 yards on just three plays. Miller capped the drive with a 30-yard touchdown run with 9:47 left in the game.
On its next possession, with the game still tied, a Grandview running back ran through the Bears defense for a 25-yard touchdown that would have tied the game. Instead, a flag was thrown—the Bulldogs were called for holding—and the touchdown was called back.
Players and coaches argued the call in disbelief and unsportsmanlike conduct was called, backing Grandview up a total of 25 yards, setting up a 1st and 35. This was one of several times that Grandview was hurt by these same penalties, but this was the most costly.
“A lot of kids are trying to take accountability,” Joiner said. “It wasn’t one person or one coach. It was just one of those situations where we shot ourselves in the foot at times.”
The Bulldogs rallied after the mistake and almost gained the first-down in the end.
On 4th and 5, Lepak scrambled under pressure and was taken down one yard short of gaining the first down. It was the last good chance Grandview would have before Chrisman would hand the ball to Miller and drain the rest of the clock.
Before the Grandview players could wrap their heads around it, the final minute of their first game of the season was winding down. A look of hurt and surprise showed on players as they walked off the field.
“A few bonehead things transpired,” Joiner said. “But overall the kids stuck together. Collectively, they understood when they made mistakes.”
Next up comes the task of correcting some of those mistakes. Grandview will have a challenge in avoiding an 0-2 start as the Bulldogs play at Grain Valley next. Grain Valley was 8-4 last season and defeated William Chrisman, 45-7, last October.