Van Horn head football coach William Harris and his Falcons made school history Friday night, and it was nearly squandered late in the Class 4 District 7 first-round game against Raytown South.
Van Horn held a 20-point lead with 7:58 remaining. South made a furious comeback and made it close at the end, but the Falcons were able to hold on for their first playoff win in school history following a 41-36 victory at Truman High School.
The Falcons will play at 7 p.m. next Friday against Harrisonville, which defeated Lincoln College Prep 34-28.
“This was a great program win for us,” Harris said. “We’ve talked about changing the culture and building something, a great win for us.”
The win was a special moment for Van Horn quarterback Shaun Ross, who got hugs pats on the back and handshakes from several Cardinals players.
He attended South during his freshman and sophomore years. This was a game Ross especially looked forward to, playing against his old teammates.
“They were never going to forget me,” Ross said of his former Cardinals teammates. “This meant everything to me. That’s what I wanted since I left Raytown South, a chance to play them.”
The Falcons found most of their success on the the ground, pounding the ball up the middle all game long. Ross, a senior, had a 155 yards on six carries, including a 83-yard touchdown on an option play in the first half.
“Let’s just say it was in the lab,” Ross said of the option run. “Once Coach Harris said we’re pulling out all the tricks, I said, ‘Let’s see what you got!’ And it happened.”
Junior running back Devontae Telar was the team’s workhorse as he carried the ball 27 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns. Sobelli Powell chipped in with 97 yards on 21 carries and a score.
“Coach said just hit it downhill, and that’s what we did,” Telar said.
The Falcons went into halftime up 20-7 thanks to an 88-yard kick return for a TD by senior Devin Weeks, Ross’ long scoring run and a 1-yard plunge by Powell. South scored with 1:54 left in the first half on a 40-yard TD pass from quarterback Javon Ray to Raevon Carter. The Falcons 13-point lead going into the break was made possible by the defense coming up with two stops in the red zone – one on a turnover on downs and the other on a missed field goal.
Touchdown runs of 4 and 28 yards by Telar, sandwiched around a South score made it 34-14 with 7:58 left in the game. Ray connected with Carter on a 12-yard TD pass, and a Falcon muffed punt resulted in another South score to narrow the gap to 34-29 after a two-point conversion following the second TD. The Falcons recovered the ensuing onside kick and appeared to ice the game on a Telar 42-yard TD run with 1:17 left to make it 41-29.
“(South) has a lot of athletes and I knew their speed would be trouble for us,” Harris said. “I think we’ve played a team that fast all year.”
South managed another score on a 42-yard strike from Ray to Desmond McKinney with 46.8 seconds left. But the Falcons recovered recovered another onside kick to make school history.
“That was little too close for comfort for us,” said Van Horn senior defensive lineman Isaiah Francises, who had two sacks, “but we came away with the win, so it’s good.”