High schools

Oak Grove bounces back with victory over Harrisonville

Updated: 2013-10-12T05:18:17Z

By ZACHARY SPAIN

Special to The Star

There was a chance the Oak Grove Panthers of last Friday would show up again.

That team last week, which hadn’t lost a regular-season game in nearly two years, endured a night that could have defined the rest of the Panthers’ season.

Dropped touchdown passes, missed interceptions, an epic third-and-30 conversion allowed from inside the 5-yard line. All that led to a bitter four-point loss at undefeated Pleasant Hill

“Last week was one of those games in which nothing can go right,” said Oak Grove coach Pat Richard a week after that defeat.

Richard was in a better mood this Friday when his Panthers at home ran away from Harrisonville 40-21.

“For most teams, when something like last week happens, when it doesn’t seem like you can get anything to go right you have a bad week of practice,” Richard said. “These kids said ‘no, no, no, it’s our year.’

“Tonight we looked like us.”

It started Friday with a surprise hatched during the week of practice.

After a game-opening delay-of-game penalty, the typically run-first Panthers and quarterback Austin Blackston went to the air.

Running back Aaron Graham brought in the well-placed Blackston pass over the middle on the first play from scrimmage, and Graham left the Harrisonville defense that had crowded the line of scrimmage behind and ran untouched for an 85-yard touchdown.

Then the Panthers went back to what they do best, spending most of the rest of the game running behind a productive offensive line.

Blackston completed four of six passes for 142 yards in the first half, including another first-quarter touchdown as he connected with Tanner Kanak for a 30-yard score that put Oak Grove ahead 13-7.

But thanks to the running of Graham (67 yards rushing and a touchdown) and Ethan Fugitt (104 yards, two touchdowns), the Panthers, 6-1, turned a 13-13 game midway through the second quarter into a rout by the end of the third.

Oak Grove held Harrisonville, 5-2, to fewer than 150 yards of offense (and 87 of those came on a Zach Davidson touchdown pass in the final minute), corralling leading rusher Austin Hopper (80 yards) and knocking out Mason Saffels with a high ankle sprain in the first half.

“That (injury) hurt us offensively and we couldn’t stop them defensively,” Harrisonville coach Chuck Lliteras said.

And after Richard gathered his team in the end zone, he reflected on how much can change in a week.

“Our kids rallied. We talked about it all week, rallying to the football, flying to the football and being physical,” Richard said. “And we were physical tonight.”

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