Given a possible reprieve late in the first half after it squandered a two-touchdown lead, William Chrisman took full advantage in Friday's playoff opener.
Three plays after David Toese's interception near midfield, Dawson Herl fired a 36-yard touchdown pass to Kelvyn Mason, giving the Bears a 21-14 lead over neighboring rival Truman with 49 seconds left in the second quarter.
With a halftime lead instead of a tie, Chrisman rolled in the second half to a 38-14 win at Norman James Field in the first round of the Class 5 District 7 playoffs.
The Bears (5-5), who had beaten Truman 52-20 earlier this season, earned a rematch with Fort Osage next week in the semifinals, while Truman finished a rough season 0-10.
Chrisman caught a break when the officials waved off a roughing-the-passer penalty that would have negated Toese's interception and short return to the Truman 25 with 1:20 left. Mason took a jet sweep 18 yards and, after a pair of Chrisman penalties, he got past his defender and hauled in Herl's pass for the go-ahead score.
Chrisman coach Matthew Perry said Truman caught his team a bit out of sorts with senior tight end Chase Schroeder back from injury after a few weeks, so that late score had his team feeling “a lot better” at halftime.
“We got a little tight in the second quarter,” Perry said. “Truman did a good job and did some things we had to adjust to. Credit to them. When we watched them on film it was a no-tight end offense. We were misaligned a couple times and they hit some passes in front of us.
“Their kids fought hard to the end. For a team that didn't win a game, they fought hard.”
The Bears jumped out to a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions, as Herl connected deep with Tre’Vaughn Sisco for a 62-yard touchdown on third-and-12, then found Simeon Leau-Fiso for a 19-yard score to cap a nine-play drive.
Truman responded when Andrew Owens powered in from the 10, capping a drive aided by three Chrisman penalties. After Truman stopped Herl's fourth-and-goal scramble short, the Patriots marched back down the field and Owens scored again from the 10.
The senior tailback racked up 81 yards on 18 carries before halftime. But on the first possession of the second half, with Chrisman driving, Owens suffered a game-ending knee injury.
Herl kept for a 1-yard touchdown, and before the quarter was over Jaden Thomas booted a 30-yard field goal to cap a nine-play drive and make it 31-14.
Truman, meanwhile, couldn't regain any traction on offense and committed three turnovers down the stretch. Osi Nauer, who led Chrisman with 70 rushing yards on 15 carries, also intercepted two passes, the second of which he returned 17 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth.
Truman coach Charlie Pugh said the late second quarter touchdown wasn't really a backbreaker, but then losing Owens obviously was deflating.
“We still had time; we were down 14-0 and came back, so we still had a chance,” Pugh said. “(Owens) is a big piece piece of what we do. Schroeder did a nice job, and defensively we just had to play some younger guys. They kept battling. We had a tough year with injuries; it's just tough.”
Schroeder took over at tailback for Owens and managed 31 yards on nine tries. Donald Edmondson, thrust into the quarterback position this season also because of injuries, finished 9-of-25 passing for 96 yards.
Herl was 7-of-13 passing for 169 yards, and Chrisman compiled 202 rushing yards, as Mason and Sisco ran effective jet sweeps. Mason, an all-state safety, has healed enough that Perry has been able to use him some on offense, giving the Bears an extra dimension.
“He's been dealing with ankle thing,” Perry said. “He's a dynamic player that can do some good things for us.
“The second half, we played William Chrisman football to a certain degree and we ran it at them.”