The things Van Horn head coach William Harris said dogged his Falcons in their three earlier losses came back to haunt them Friday night against Harrisonville.
The No. 2 seed Falcons (7-4) bowed out of the Class 4 District 7 playoffs with a 34-14 loss to the sixth-seeded Wildcats (4-7) in the semifinals at Independence All-School Stadium after not capitalizing off opponents’ mistakes and struggling to throw the ball when the running game got shut down.
Van Horn forced three turnovers in the first half, but only turned them into points once.
“That’s kind of something that’s followed us this year,” Harris said. “In those tough games, our defense has played well, and our defense has gotten turnovers early, and we’ve gotten favorable position, but we just weren’t able to turn them into points enough to put their back against the wall.”
Jireh Fualu strip-sacked Harrisonville quarterback River Riley and the Falcons recovered it on the Wildcat 13. On the next play, quarterback Shaun Ross scored on a rushing play to put Van Horn up 7-6 with 1:18 left in the first quarter.
After the Wildcats forced a punt on the next Van Horn drive, the Falcons recovered a fumbled punt on the Harrisonville 41, but could not get inside the red zone and turned it over on downs.
Treyvion Paige picked off Riley late in the second quarter. Again, the Falcons failed to capitalize and Harrisonville forced a punt.
Big plays gave the Wildcats a 19-7 lead, and the Falcons started to run more passing plays. That did not turn out well for Van Horn.
Completing just four passes for minus-1 yard in the first half on 13 tries, Ross’ passes came up short, went long, got dropped and almost got intercepted.
“That’s another thing that we knew coming into the game,” Harris said, “we can run the ball well, but I said if we get the teams that stop our running game, what are we going to do then? How are we going to respond? And like I said, we didn’t respond well.”
Ross finished the game 9-of-25 for 44 yards and rushed the ball eight times for 80 yards.
Harrisonville got the scoring started early with a 27-yard touchdown run from Joshua Pesek at the 8:45 mark in the first quarter.
In a game where Van Horn regularly got pressure on Riley, two long passes put Harrisonville ahead in the second, one a 67-yard strike to Kennedy Atkinson, and the other a 61-yard catch-and-run from Colby Knowles to give the Wildcats a 19-7 lead in the second quarter.
“Our sophomore quarterback is starting to see the field well,” Harrisonville head coach Brent Maxwell said. “We’ve got some receivers that can go up and get it. I’m a little disappointed in our pass protection. At times they kind of got to us a little bit.”
Harrisonville used the ground game to take more than six minutes off the clock in the third quarter, driving 79 yards and scoring on a 12-yard pass from Riley to Knowles. The Wildcats set up to punt during the drive, but two encroachment penalties by the Falcons turned a fourth-and-12 to a fourth-and-two. And Pesek kept the drive alive.
Van Horn senior running back Sobelli Powell scored on a 13-yard run late.