Harrisonville football coach Brent Maxwell didn’t expect a picture-perfect performance against Webb City, but he didn’t picture the Wildcats coughing up the ball so much either.
Harrisonville committed five turnovers, including three during a game-turning stretch in the third quarter, as its quest for a second consecutive Class 4 state championship ended with a 24-0 loss during Class 4 quarterfinal action Friday, Nov. 10, at Memorial Stadium in Harrisonville.
The Wildcats (9-4) lost the ball in a variety of ways — an interception, three fumbles, and a muffed kickoff return.
Besides setting up all four of the Cardinals’ scores, three touchdowns and a field goal, the turnovers also helped sustain a grind-it-out option offense that kept the Wildcats from attempting a comeback.
“We obviously had to play very well and we didn’t play well enough,” Maxwell said. “They were able to capitalize on all the mistakes we did make, and that’s what good teams do.”
Harrisonville played well enough in the first half to trail only 7-0 despite running only two plays the first quarter and picking up just two first downs in the second period.
The Wildcats looked ready to tie the game just before halftime when quarterback Ryan Byrd connected with Jasper Davis for a 32-yard pass that put the Wildcats on the Webb City 13-yard line.
Two plays later, Byrd fumbled a pitch on the 10 and Webb City linebacker Brenyn Surber pounced on the ball.
Byrd fumbled again on the first play after the Wildcats received the second-half kickoff, setting up an 8-yard touchdown by Webb City running back Durand Henderson three plays later.
Harrisonville’s next possession ended with another fumble at midfield, which set up a 22-yard field goal.
Two plays after Harrisonville muffed the ensuing kickoff, Webb City quarterback Cash Link tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Alex Gaskill for a 24-0 lead with 30 seconds left in the quarter.
“We lacked a little bit of focus there, and they’re just a good football team,” Maxwell said. “We didn’t execute as well as I think we have been recently. Part of that’s on us, and part of that is to their credit.”
Webb City (13-0) had 357 total yards with its ball-control offense, almost all of it on the ground, while Harrisonville managed just 59 total yards after barely touching the ball in the first half.
The Wildcats’ first possession set the tone for the game.
Two plays after Harrisonville’s defense forced Webb City to punt, Byrd threw a pass over the middle to Davis, who was covered by Cardinals defensive back Dakota Wynn.
Davis appeared to make the catch, but Wynn wrestled the ball away before Davis landed on the 10-yard line.
“Usually with Jasper out there, I trust it’s either going to be his ball or an incomplete pass,” Byrd said. “I thought it should have been our ball. That could have changed the momentum of the game.”
Instead, it started a 20-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Gaskill taking a pitch from Link on a reverse and tossing a 14-yard TD pass to Jacob Monroe early in the second quarter.
That sent Webb City on its way to avenging a 27-21 loss against the Wildcats during last season’s quarterfinals. It remains the only time the 16-time state champion Cardinals have ever lost to the Wildcats.
“Not the way we wanted to end, but, being one of the eight teams still playing tonight, that’s still not too shabby,” Maxwell said. “Most teams would take that.”