By Shawn Roney
Friday night’s 27-7 season-opening win over Polo didn’t make Van Horn coach Jeff Tolbert happy.
The reason Tolbert was displeased was because of how the Falcons played during the non-conference meeting at Truman High School.
“Our second half was absolutely horrible,” he said. “And it was just a lack of execution, a lack of concentration – and part of it, Polo was responsible for.”
But the first half went well, according to Falcons quarterback Anthony Winningham.
“We were nice and disciplined,” said Winningham, who tossed two touchdowns to help Van Horn get the victory over the Panthers, the No. 7-ranked team in Class 1.
During the first half, the Falcons (1-0) scored on four of six possessions to build a 27-0 halftime lead. Winningham’s 48-yard TD pass to Marquis Bever and Nathan Ingold’s extra-point kick made it 7-0 with 2:10 left in the first quarter.
“I just wanted to trust my line,” Winningham said. “If they give me more time back there, I’m going to make the pass, and I trust my wide receivers to make the catch.”
Demetrius Winston’s 7-yard TD run and Winningham’s two-point conversion pass to Kylan Alexander made it 15-0 with 7:01 left in the second quarter. A fumble recovery and a 41-yard pass play led to J.J. Rivers’ 9-yard scoring run with 2:12 remaining. Winningham’s 10-yard scoring pass to Alexander with 54 seconds left finished Van Horn’s scoring.
A 1-yard TD run and an extra-point kick with 6:46 left in the third quarter accounted for Polo’s points. At halftime, Tolbert and his coaching staff reminded their players that Polo (0-1) “made a deep run in the playoffs last year – and it wasn’t because they gave up when things were difficult,” he said. But the Falcons didn’t respond to the Panthers’ mental toughness “in the way that we should respond,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert suggested he wants to see his team show the type of mental toughness Polo did.
“When things get difficult – when we have heat issues, when we have fatigue issues – we have to continue to maintain our focus and continue to do things the way that we’ve coached those guys to do them,” he said.
Consistency also is key for the Falcons to become the kind of football team they want to be, Tolbert said.
“We just made too many mistakes (tonight),” he said. “We’ve talked about the fact that we’re almost there – we almost make the tackle, we almost make the catch. I’ve had a belly full of ‘almost.’ ”
SAVANNAH 46, GRAIN VALLEY 42: A big game by Brice Quinn couldn’t prevent Grain Valley from suffering a tough 46-42 season-opening loss Friday to Savannah.
Quinn rushed 21 times for 183 yards, including touchdown runs of 45 and 84 yards. He also caught nine passes for 123 yards, including touchdowns of 7 and 27 yards from Ben Andes.
Zach Ehlen scored on a 32-yard run and caught a 30-yard scoring pass from Kellen Holland.
“We’re getting better,” Grain Valley coach Jimmy Tucker said. “We had a lot of offense. Two big turnovers hurt us, and we gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half. We played a really good team and had a chance to win the game.”
Grain Valley led 29-26 at halftime. Savannah went in front for keeps with about nine minutes left in the game. The Eagles fell to Savannah 13-6 in last season’s opener.
PLATTE COUNTY 42, WILLIAM CHRISMAN 7: It was a tough season opener for a young William Chrisman team.
Platte County never was threatened Friday night in defeating the visiting Bears for the second consecutive year. The Bears scored their touchdown in the fourth quarter.
OAK GROVE 40, LEXINGTON 14: Oak Grove continues to dominate Lexington.
Ethan Fugitt and Aaron Graham each scored two touchdowns as the Panthers opened the season with an easy victory Friday at Lexington. It was Oak Grove’s 10th-consecutive victory over the Minutemen.
Austin Blackston passed for two touchdowns, one each to Graham and Tanner Kanak, and Graham’s rushing touchdown came from 59 yards out.