One of the shortest rushes of Billy Conaway Jr.’s outing was the one that went the furthest in helping his Kansas club put away Missouri on Thursday night.
Conaway’s touchdown run went just 4 yards, but it gave his squad of Kansas high school football players a two-touchdown lead late in the third quarter of the Kansas-Missouri All-Star Game at the College Boulevard Activity Center in Olathe.
That was all the momentum Kansas needed to overcome an early deficit and rattle off 35 unanswered points in a 35-21 win over Missouri.
“He did a great job,” Kansas coach Bob Lisher said of Conaway Jr., who finished with 165 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, good for the Kansas MVP honors. “He made a lot of plays when we needed to. He’s a shifty, strong, fast runner.”
Conaway, from Shawnee Mission North, was only part of the stellar rushing attack from Kansas, which racked up 279 yards on the ground. In fact, the squad attempted just seven passes attempts, which resulted in 79 yards.
That’s part of why the fourth quarter was almost entirely garbage time.
For its part, Missouri made things interesting in the fourth when Smithville quarterback Kellen Simoncic lasered a 57-yard touchdown pass to Grandview wideout Harold Trainer, who made an athletic catch and did the rest, galloping into the end zone.
The bad news for Missouri: It was far too little, and far too late.
Missouri now leads the all-time series 14-13. Kansas has won the last two meetings.
“We kind of gave it away a little bit,” Missouri coach William Harris said. “We didn’t play our best ball at some points. In the all-star game, they’re good enough to take advantage of those things when you let down your guard.”
Kansas never needed the pass anyway — the exception a 47-yard hookup between St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Tate Raboin and Mill Valley wide receiver Logan Talley in the third quarter — but it didn’t hurt its offense because Missouri had every reason to expect rushes.
Look no further than the end of the first half for proof.
Kansas began the game in a 14-0 hole, thanks to two Missouri rushing touchdowns — the first from Odessa’s Jonas Bennett, the second from Van Horn’s Shaun Ross — but that’s when Kansas began to mount its comeback.
It all happened in a shade over two minutes. Kansas scored three times in the final 2:02 of the first half.
First, the simple play. Raboin took an option play 3 yards into the end zone, trimming Missouri’s lead to 14-7 with 2:02 in the first half.
That’s when things got weird.
Twenty seconds of game time later, after Kansas forced Missouri into a punting play deep in its own territory, Kansas’ Christian Roth flew through the line of scrimmage, blocked the punt and recovered it in the end zone. Touchdown Kansas. Tie game, at 14-14.
Then, after Kansas secured yet another stop on Missouri’s end of the field, Kansas swarmed Missouri running back John Eldridge. He fumbled. Lawrence Free State linebacker Shane Skwarlo recovered it in the end zone, good for a touchdown — again.
That’s how Kansas took a 21-14 lead into the intermission.
“It was very important to score in unique ways like that,” Lisher said. “The way the game was going, we would take anything. Luckily, we were fortunate enough to make some things happen and get some points off it.”
They never need any more, as it turned out.
Kansas won despite a forgettable night from Lawrence Free State kicker Kameron Lake, a Washburn commit who misfired on a pair of field-goal attempts in the first half.
Not to worry for the Kansas team, which overcame a pair of turnovers — a fumble and an interception — in large part because of its scintillating ground attack.
“It was very special to me,” said Lisher, coaching in his sixth Kansas/Missouri contest. “You spend a lot of time over here in those eight days, and you for sure want to take advantage of that opportunity. It’s an honor to coach in it. It’s an honor to play in it. And obviously, it’s an honor to win it.””