The second half started far from ideal for Truman’s football team Friday, as North Kansas City had quick touchdown drives of 61 and 35 yards sandwiched around a lost fumble by Truman taking the kickoff.
But the Patriots had built up enough equity in the first half to take a 28-0 halftime lead, and after those wobbly minutes to start the third they stood back upright and shut the door for a 42-12 win in the first round of the Class 5 District 7 playoffs at Independence All-School Stadium.
Just a year after hobbling through an 0-9 season, the Patriots (6-4) have a playoff win and a second-round meeting with Winnetonka (7-2) next Friday at North Kansas City.
“We got off to really good start first half, and the second half we started rough but finished strong,” said Truman quarterback Jon Gosserand, who rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, threw a TD pass and intercepted a pair of passes. “We were just ready to get it in (the end zone) – ready to move on.”
Damon Whitmill and wildcat quarterback Fasil Kassahun did all the damage on the ground for the visiting Hornets (1-9) in the third quarter, and Kassahun got touchdowns of 4 and 9 yards. But the NKC missed the first PAT kick and came up short on a two-point conversion run attempt, leaving it still behind 28-12.
Twice Truman appeared to have a ready response, but a block in the back penalty nullified Andreas Sese’s 59-yard kick return touchdown, and fullback Tre’Von Sorrells broke off a 38-yard run before a quartet of penalties stalled the Patriots.
Still, Truman didn’t allow any more first downs. Gosserand’s 5-yard TD run capped a short 40-yard drive late in the third, then intercepted a deep ball on NKC’s next play. Two possessions later, Sorrells (16 carries, 142 yards) scored off left tackle from 20 yards out with 2:49 remaining for the playoff cake icing.
“I could read it well back really well, being able to see the Q back there,” Gosserand said of his first interception.
“The defense played well, but we still weren’t good assignment-wise,” Webb said after his team yielded 40 yards in the first half and 119 overall. “That showed the start of the second half. When you practice all week, you expect to execute the game plan. It’s like, ‘What we are doing?’
“But we’ll take it. I’m excited for the kids; I don’t know when it was the last time they had a playoff win.”
Defensive tackle Eli Stewart had four of the team’s seven tackles for negative yardage. Nick Twenter sniffed out a screen pass for a 4-yard loss on the Hornets’ only completion, and Alex Fogliani and Nathan Ingle also had stops behind the line.
Sorrells’ first of three touchdowns came from 17 yards out in the first quarter, capping a six-play, 65-yard drive on the ground to start the game. In the second quarter, halfback/wildcat quarterback Jordan Salima (22 carries, 124 yards) found a hole on the right side, juked left and outraced a pair of defenders for a 33-yard touchdown at the 9:55 mark.
Sorrells added a 3-yard scoring plunge to cap a 39-yard drive with 2:30 left before halftime. Following a three-and-out and short punt, Truman took over at the NKC 44. Gosserand connected with Sese on a second-down pass for 22 yards, then two plays later lofted a 20-yarder to a leaping Devon Hastins in the end zone. Brandon Chandler added the fourth of his six extra points with 29 seconds.
“(Coach) gave me a chance, and I just wanted to prove myself,” said Gosserand, who has been the quarterback since Dean Clemons got hurt in Week 3 and split taking snaps with Salima.
“The scores right before the half, if you’ve been in this long enough, you know how important they are,” Webb said, “because you know something can happen (later).
Webb said he wanted to take some of the rushing load off the shoulders of Salima, who has 1,494 yards this season.
“Jon had a great game. He threw the ball well and ran OK, and Tre’Von ran OK – when we got him to hit the right hole,” he said. “Part of it was just to show and get our kids back into what we (had designed to) do, which is trap, sweep and keep.”