For the Oak Grove football team, preparing for and then playing Kansas City Southwest to start postseason play was an exercise in self-improvement.

For the Oak Grove football team, preparing for and then playing Kansas City Southwest to start postseason play was an exercise in self-improvement.

During practice week, Oak Grove coach Pat Richard wanted to see daily improvement. He got his wish, and he saw the results of that improvement Thursday night, when the Class 3 No. 4-ranked Panthers routed the visiting Indians 71-6. With the District 7 victory, the Panthers (10-0) advanced to host Pembroke Hill in district play next Wednesday.

“If you take a week off and you don’t get any better, then you’re not going to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to win it all,” Richard said.

Panthers sophomore running back Aaron Graham also saw improvement during practice week and at game time. During practice, he saw players working hard and changing their techniques.

“We made sure we worked on technique a lot, made sure we had everything down to a point,” Graham said. “And then we just executed tonight.”

Offensively, the Panthers executed well enough to tally 367 yards on 33 carries, including 170 yards on nine carries during the first quarter. Graham helped kick-start the running game with 69 yards on three carries, all of them for touchdowns.

Oak Grove’s performance on offense was in keeping with what Richard has seen from his team all season.

“We run the football and we do a good job up front of being physical,” he said. “(We’ve) got great backs, and we try to get them into open space and let them play. And we did a good job of that tonight.”

Powered by the line’s strength and the running backs’ success at finding and exploding through open spaces, the Panthers led 40-0 after one quarter. They went on to lead 59-0 at halftime and 65-0 after three quarters. Jake Harrenstien’s 10-yard, fourth-quarter TD run gave the Panthers their final points.

The Indians scored their lone touchdown on a 36-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Southwest finished 1-9. Richard praised the Indians for how they conducted themselves Thursday.

“Those kids from Southwest have a lot of heart and a lot of guts to be able to do what they do,” he said. “I know there have been a lot of kids that haven’t finished the season with them. And the ones that remained, that says a lot about those kids and the heart that they have.”