DeMarcus Edwards was set up to be the hero.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Edwards, Lee’s Summit West’s junior running back, sparked a second-half rally Saturday in the Class 5 quarterfinals against Ozark, which led by 19 points midway through the third quarter at Titan Stadium. He returned a squib kickoff 72 yards for a touchdown to breathe life into LS West, then put the Titans in front with a 5-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter.
But the Tigers, 11-1, whose only loss this season came against Webb City, made good on a last-gasp drive and pulled out a 26-23 victory with a 12-play, 80-yard drive in the closing minutes.
“We wondered if the miracle could happen again, and it just about did,” Titans coach Royce Boehm said, referring to a playoff rally last season from a 28-0 hole at Springfield Glendale.
Really, though, Ozark won the game in the first half when it put LS West, 11-1 — which hadn’t trailed all season — into a 12-0 hole.
“We had some mental busts,” Boehm said.
In addition to a botched punt snap, which Tigers linebacker Ian Reese scooped up for a 2-yard fumble return touchdown, a lack of discipline by the vaunted LS West defense – especially in containment on the edge – proved costly.
Ozark sustained long marches throughout the game, including one early in the second quarter capped by Austin Roberts’ 17-yard touchdown.
“We were very shocked, because we were well-prepared but we shot ourselves in the foot,” Edwards said.
After a penalty-aided stop to open the third quarter, which saw Titans offensive lineman Kyle Morrison ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, the Tigers tacked on another score for a 19-0 lead.
That’s when Edwards sparked a rally on special team.
Junior Jack Richards recovered a fumble three plays later and the Titans pulled within five points thanks to the Bazooka package, an awkward-looking but effective set that features basically a double Wildcat formation in the backfield.
Mizzou-bound linebacker Nick Ramirez hurdled the Tigers’ defense for a 4-yard score to cap the drive.
Next, junior linebacker Zach Rasmussen’s red-zone interception set up LS West’s go-ahead 84-yard drive capped by Edwards second TD.
Michael Holt connected on a 40-yard field goal after a fourth-down stop that pushed the lead to 23-19, but LS West left too much time – 2 minutes, 33 seconds – on the clock and senior quarterback David Salazar, who replaced injured starter Seth Wheeler at halftime, led the Tigers back down the field and, ultimately, to victory.
“We went into an Okie package right there and we dropped everybody, but our middle linebackers didn’t drop deep enough and they were picking us (apart) right over the middle,” Boehm said.
Salazar completed four of seven passes for 58 yards on the drive, including a critical 16-yard hookup on fourth-and-9 near midfield, before Cody Lindsay scored his second touchdown on a 10-yard option for the game-winner with 23.5 seconds remaining.
LS West played without its best wide receiver, Monte Harrison, who was suspended for leaving the sideline during an altercation in the win Monday against Springfield Parkview, who had three players ejected in the melee.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.