The drought spanned 27 days in September, an interval in the Harrisonville football program that featured zero victories, three losses and 23 turnovers.
The dilemmas became so numerous that they prompted coach Brent Maxwell to hold a team meeting, which his top senior described as stocked with (ticked-off) players.
On Friday, a much different circumstance prompted the Wildcats’ final gathering of the season. This one included a championship trophy.
Harrisonville completed a season-long turnaround, dethroning Kearney with a 21-14 win Friday in the Missouri Class 4 state championship game at Plaster Stadium in Springfield.
“I couldn’t imagine being here and winning it during those three weeks,” Harrisonville quarterback Brandon Eickhorst said. “We just really came together that (next) week, and things just kind of fell into place.”
In the first Missouri state title game to pit two Kansas City teams against each other since 1969, it was Harrisonville that hoisted the first-place plaque in the center of the field. The fifth championship in program history was its first as a member of Class 4.
The Wildcats never trailed, either. Harrisonville led defending-champion Kearney 21-0 before halftime, then allowed its offense to control the clock to prevent a comeback.
But Kearney, 13-2, made its best attempt. Bulldogs quarterback Anthony Pritzel scored on a 1-yard sneak for his second touchdown of the game, cutting the lead to 21-14 with 3:49 left. Pritzel ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns in 22 rushes.
“We told them in the (halftime) locker room (to) just close your eyes and come out and play your best ball,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said.
The Bulldogs responded appropriately, but after they pulled within seven for the first time, Harrisonville never relinquished the football on its final clock-eating drive.
An ongoing storyline Friday: Harrisonville, 12-3, used its split-back veer offense to hold the ball for 29 minutes, 42 seconds in the 48-minute game.
“Every down, we just said, 4 more yards. Gotta get 4 more,” Harrisonville lineman Xavier Stein said.
The opening drive provided a forewarning.
Harrisonville chewed 6:40 off the clock on its first possession, a drive that covered 16 plays and 85 yards. The Wildcats successfully converted four third-down plays before senior Morgan Selemaea rolled into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Then, more of the same.
The Wildcats controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the evening, totaling 291 yards in 59 carries in the running game. Joe Bowers ran for 170 yards and a score. Selemaea had 113 more yards in 30 carries.
The Wildcats threw the ball only seven times, and quarterback Brandon Eickhorst misfired only once.
It was the formula Harrisonville utilized to flip the aforementioned losing streak in September. Harrisonville finished on an eight-game winning streak, capped with Friday’s state title.
“Everybody has their own special story, but our season’s been up and down this year,” Maxwell said. “I think everybody just kind of (wrote) us off.”