More than 30 minutes before kickoff Friday, Lee’s Summit West coach Royce Boehm paced across the middle of the football field. Among a clutter of players near the 50-yard line, Boehm walked alone, staring down at the grass without breaking stride.
He called the opening night of the high school football season one of the most anxious — and unpredictable — nights of the year.
“Always question marks,” he said.
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Lee’s Summit West defeated Liberty 44-14 on Friday, but not before the game endured a series of delays.
The threat of a triple-digit heat index pushed back the starting time of more than 20 opening-week games in Missouri on Friday night. But it was another meteorological event that delayed the kickoff further at Lee’s Summit West.
A thunderstorm popped up more than an hour before the Titans and the Blue Jays were set to open their seasons. The lightning delayed the start until 8:30 p.m. Fans were escorted into the school gym during the delay before re-entering the stadium in a herd 30 minutes later.
“We were preparing for the heat to be a factor,” Liberty coach Chad Frigon said. “And then the lightning comes. Go figure.”
The storm — which lasted less than 10 minutes — made the water-misting devices unnecessary on the sidelines. The temperatures stayed unexpectedly moderate.
The early weather certainly didn’t steal from the excitement of opening night. Lee’s Summit West brought in extra bleachers to accommodate a large crowd that saw Titans senior Brenner Clemons score six touchdowns.
Prior to the game, Boehm said he was eager to see which players would emerge to fill in for the loss of last year’s stars, most notably Monte Harrison, the team’s top playmaker last year.
On Friday, that man was Clemons.
He ran for four touchdowns while piloting the wildcat package. He caught a 50-yard touchdown from Bryce Kreikemeier. And he threw a 90-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Abrahamson, who did most of the work out-racing the Liberty defense.
“We have so many guys — tonight was just my night,” Clemons said. “Other guys, it’s gonna be their night later. We have so many good offensive players.”
None shined like Clemons, whose most impressive run was actually a 1-yard plunge. Clemons fumbled the snap, then was shoved backward while trying to hurdle the line. He eventually stepped all the way back to the 7-yard line before reversing field and crossing the goal line.
He had five touchdowns by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Lee’s Summit West led 37-7 after three quarters in its first game as a Class 6 team. Last season, the Titans won the Class 5 title.
That spoiled an impressive night for Liberty senior Devon Bryant, who deserved better than his stat line showed. Bryant finished with 90 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Liberty quarterback A.J. Cambric completed 11 of 24 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown to wideout Xavier Hinkle.
Liberty finished its opening four drives without a first down.
“We tried to come back in the second half and get some points on the board, but obviously that didn’t happen,” Bryant said. “They have a tremendous defense. We tried to block him, but they just attacked the holes like they’re supposed to. They were tough.”
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