The Blue Springs South football team discovered that the undefeated Lee's Summit Tigers rely on much more than the strong arm of quarterback Drew Lock.
The junior phenom, who reportedly has been offered a combined football-basketball scholarship by the University of Missouri, completed 11 of 16 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-25 Suburban Big Six victory over the Jaguars.
But he had a strong supporting cast as the Tigers’ running game and special teams played a huge role in Lee's Summit's sixth consecutive victory Friday night at Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium.
Alonzo Page carried the ball nine times for 134 yards and Casey Slaughter added 83 yards on 17 carries.
But it was the Tigers' special team play that had everyone talking after the game as a Jaguar pooch kick was returned 35 yards with just 36 seconds left in the half and South trailing 14-12 (following a missed extra point kick on its first score and two-point pass play on it second).
“We spend a lot of time working on our special team plays,” Tigers coach Eric Thomas, the Kansas City Chiefs Coach of the Week, said. “I'm proud of the overall performance by our kids tonight. We played a very good team tonight and came away with a big win.”
With 8.8 seconds left in the half, Lock then hooked up with Zach Mitchell for a 19-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 21-12 lead and a world of momentum.
“We would have had the momentum because we just scored, but we didn't get it done before the half,” said South linebacker Josh Watson, who had two sacks, 11 tackles and spent as much time in the Tigers backfield as Page and Slaughter. “We learned tonight that you can't let a good team make a big play after a mistake, and we made too many mistakes to win this game. We never gave up, we just made too many mistakes.”
That comment was backed by a 15-play, 85-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Colton Pogue to Briley Moore-McKinney with just 14 seconds left in the game.
“My team will never give up,” said South running back Emery Ester, who had a monster game, scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 162 yards on 26 carries. “We wanted to keep (Lock) off the field and we knew we could do that if we ran the ball.
“But it's hard to catch up to a team that scores like Lee's Summit by running the ball.”
The 6-0 Tigers took a 14-0 lead early in the game on 92- and 39-yard touchdown passes by Lock.
But the 3-3 Jags showed some life when Emery scored on a 38-yard burst up the middle. He later scored on a 2-yard run, but the missed extra point and two-point conversion kept the Jags playing catchup.
Then, the touchdown before the half took the air out of a team that could never get over the hump.
“That's been our case this season, even in the games we won, we struggle at times and it costs us,” South coach Greg Oder said. “The (pooch kick) before the half really hurt. It certainly didn't go like we'd hoped – we have to look at that one.
“I thought we were going into the half with some momentum after we scored the second touchdown, but it didn't turn out that way.”
The Tigers totaled 553 yards of offense while South finished with 335. Pogue, a linebacker who is playing quarterback because of injuries to the two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, was 8 of 17 for 106 yards and one score.
The game was suspended for 27 minutes because of lightning at the 1:04 mark of the third quarter and Blue Springs School District activities director Mark Bubalo and South AD Tim Michael managed to get the sizable crowd into the school gymnasium during the delay and back in the stands once it was determined the two teams could resume play.
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC