After Friday’s game against Winnetonka, Van Horn head coach William Harris admitted that it’s sometimes better to be lucky than good.
Van Horn senior linebacker Isaiah Walton was a little bit of both on one critical play. The Falcons were ahead 27-20 and the Griffins had the ball on the Van Horn 1-yard line, and looked destined to tie it late in the third quarter.
A bad snap on a trick play caused a ball bounce off a Winnetonka player’s hands. The ball bounced up and right into the arms of Walton, who returned the ball 99 yards for a fumble recovery and a touchdown.
That crucial play caused a 14-point swing and gave the Falcons the momentum they needed. That and 277 total yards – including 190 rushing – from senior quarterback Shaun Ross helped the Falcons improve to 5-1 with a 47-20 win at Independence All-School Stadium.
“That was a run!” Walton said of his touchdown. “Once I got the ball into my hands, I knew I had to execute and I had to run. Don’t stop, and I did that.”
Harris said those kind of plays can happen when an opponent tries a trick play.
“When you try to snap the ball to a different player besides the quarterback, anything can happen,” Harris said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. It was a big play for us. Isaiah is a big inside backer who can run for us.”
That was one of four turnovers for Van Horn, which also got interceptions from David Krantz, Devyn Weeks and Sean Mitchell. After allowing 20 points in the first half, the Van Horn defense shut out the Griffins in the second half.
“I feel like our box guys are pretty good and I think our secondary is kind of where we slack off a little bit,” Harris said. “We challenged them and said, “Hey, you guys have to be good.’ (The Griffins) throw the ball and they like the deep ball. (The secondary) stepped up and played (well).”
After Walton’s fumble recovery for a TD, Winnetonka wasn’t the same after that. Van Horn took advantage as Ross later scored on a 38-yard scramble where he got the edge on the left side of the field and out ran the defense for a 41-20 lead with 44.8 seconds left in the third. It was his fourth score of the game as he gave the Winnetonka fits all night.
Ross scored on the team’s opening drive when five Winnetonka players got into the backfield on a blitz. Ross scrambled to his left got around the defense for a 10-yard touchdown run at 7:55 in the first.
The Falcons offense struggled late in the first half and early in the second and that allowed Winnetonka to take a 13-7 lead after a 49-yard TD run from Hayden Shay and a 7-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jovan Satterwhite to Joe Thomas.
Ross answered with 2:13 left in the half when he scrambled to his left and got the edge before he bulldozed a defender for 47-yard score and a 14-13 lead.
On Winnetonka’s next drive, it scored after just two plays when a kick return and a Falcons personal foul penalty set it up at the Van Horn 46. Dre Fanning scored on a 10-yard run to help the Griffins reclaim the lead at 20-14.
But once again, Ross put the offense on his back. He beat the blitz, scrambled 20 yards before cutting to his left and finding open space for a 71-yard scoring run to tie it at 20-20.
That was just one reason Coach Harris and Walton were in awe of the second-year starting quarterback, who finished with 190 yards on just nine carries.
“I have run out of adjectives for him,” Harris said. “The kid is just special. When he gets outside the pocket, he is a different animal. I had someone ask me why teams don’t spy on him. The kid runs a 10.9 (seconds) (100-meter dash). There aren’t a whole lot of linebackers that run a 10.9. How are you going to spy on him?”
Walton paid an even higher compliment to Ross.
“He’s fast!” Walton exclaimed. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks I know. I feel like he’s the best in the state.”
Getting chunks of yards on scrambling plays and escaping the blitz is something Ross has grown accustomed to. After carrying the ball on a handful of lengthy runs, Ross didn’t seem tired at all.
“I am used to it because Coach (Roshaad) Byrd runs me every day in practice,” Ross said of rushing the ball often. “When those guys run two gassers, I run five gassers. He pushes me every day.
“When the outside linebacker comes inside my feet, now you’re saying beat me to the outside. If that’s the race you want to have, we can have it.”
Junior running back Devontae Telar, who played for North Kansas City on defense last season, came back to Van Horn and has been the No. 1 running back. He carried the ball 28 times for 67 yards and two scores. He got a TD from 2 yards out while in the Wildcat formation to give the Falcons a 27-20 lead early in the third. He also scored the final TD from 6 yards out early in the fourth.
“He’s gotten better every week,” Harris said. “He started out slow the first couple of weeks but has gotten better. I think he’s starting to feel good running the ball again.
“He liked being a running back again. He came to me one day and said, ‘Coach, I have been playing safety all summer. I was like, ‘OK. I got you!’”