Harrisonville’s defense caused Pleasant Hill some problems and, by the time the Roosters figured out how to move the ball, the game was out of reach Friday at Memorial Stadium in Harrisonville.
With the help of three touchdowns at least 50 yards long, the Wildcats easily handled Pleasant Hill 40-14 during a Missouri River Valley Conference West showdown.
“Proud of the kids and the effort they put forward tonight,” Harrisonville head coach Brent Maxwell said. “It’s always a big win when you play Pleasant Hill. I don’t know if it is what is used to be necessarily, but the kids, they were ready for this this week.”
The Wildcats (4-3, 2-1 MRVC West) led 20-0 and never let up as quarterback Ryan Byrd connected twice with Jasper Davis on long touchdowns — catch-and-runs of 50 and 58 yards — in continuing to pull away during the third quarter.
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“We did some good things we can build on here,” Roosters head coach Greg Smith said. “Offensively, the second half we were able to move the ball, put some points on the board. Defensively, they got us with some big plays in the second half. We’ve got to be able to make sure we can prevent that. But at this point, you’ve got to learn from this, move on, and turn our focus to Odessa.”
The Roosters (3-4, 1-2 MRVC West) anticipated Harrisonville’s defensive pressure, so quarterback Blake Atkins focused on getting the ball out of his hands quickly. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 236 yards, mostly on short throws.
The first drive of the game, Atkins went 6 of 8 and marched the Roosters deep into Wildcats territory. But on fourth-and-2 from the Harrisonville 27-yard line, Jaeden Grego was stopped for a 2-yard loss on one of those short attempts.
The times Atkins didn’t get rid of the ball quickly, it meant troubles as the Wildcats came up with four first-half sacks.
“We’re starting to play pretty well defensively,” Maxwell said. “And they had a good game plan coming in. They were getting rid of the ball quick, hitting the quick seams a little bit. We had it defended well, but maybe the timing a little bit caught us off guard. The times they didn’t (get rid of the ball quickly), we were able to get to him and at least force an errant throw, if not sack him for a loss. That was definitely a key.”
Meanwhile, Harrisonville was rolling by land and through the air.
Byrd attempted only 10 passes, but he connected on eight for 172 yards with three touchdowns, including a 21-yard strike to Colin Caruthers for the game’s first points.
The Wildcats doubled the lead on a rushing touchdown by Byrd at the start of second quarter, while Wyatt Reynolds’ 7-yard scamper made it 20-0 later in the quarter.
Reynolds finished with 137 yards on just 10 carries and Jay Freeman added 47 yards on seven first-half carries.
For Pleasant Hill, after a promising initial drive, the offense struggled until the third quarter.
Roosters running back Cody Faust finished with 71 yards on 17 carries, but most of that damage — 47 yards — came after halftime.
“It goes back to they were loading the box,” Smith said. “The reason the short passing game was open was because they were putting a lot of bodies in the box and sending a lot of blitzes, so that was part of the issue in the first half and we made an adjustment. We were able to come out in the second half and move the ball down a little better.”
Garrett Schick finally got Pleasant Hill on the board with a 24-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, but Harrisonville still led 27-7 at that point and immediately answered.
Davis blunted the Roosters’ momentum when he out-jumped Grego on the deep pass then walked into the end zone from there for a 58-yard touchdown.
“The defender was in great position,” Maxwell said. “You know, I’m sure he’s disappointed in himself, but I thought he was in great position and a heck of a defensive play, but Jasper was able to go up and be physical and come down with the ball. Great focus and concentration.”
Late in the third, Harrisonville, which plays at Oak Grove on Oct. 6, made a goal-line stand, snuffing Atkins on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Reynolds iced the game with a 98-yard touchdown run, bouncing off a defender and streaking down the right sideline.
Ramsey Kohler netted the Rooster’ other touchdown on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Pleasant Hill returns to action Oct. 6 at Odessa.