Van Horn head football coach William Harris had high expectations coming into the season for his Falcons.
He said he thought it could be a special season, with a team loaded with fast wide receivers, an up-and-coming quarterback and a strong offensive line. After Friday’s Class 4 District 7 first-round game against Harrisonville, what started as a season of promise ended with a thud.
Van Horn matched the Wildcats punch for punch in the first half, only trailing by 21-14 at halftime. However, Harrisonville delivered a knockout in the final 24 minutes as it scored 37 unanswered points to end the Falcons’ season with a 58-14 victory at Independence All-School Stadium.
“I really feel for the seniors,” said Harris, whose team ended its season at 5-5. “We wanted to go out better than this. I am very disappointed. We came in feeling like we had a good team and that we had a chance to do some special things. To be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs is definitely a disappointment. This is not what we expected in July and August.”
The Wildcats (5-5) won the battle of the trenches as their front seven on defense and their offensive line dominated. Running back Jace Reynolds took advantage of a struggling Van Horn defense and outstanding blocking by rushing for 291 yards on 26 carries and scoring five times. In the second half, he scored on runs of 78, 64, 60 – all on trap plays right up the middle.
“We’ve had trouble all year stopping the run,” Harris said. “I have been coaching for a long time, and if you don’t fix the problems that bite you early, they come back to haunt you in games like this. I am disappointed, but I can’t say I am surprised.”
Harrisonville also notched a safety on a blocked punt; scored on a 60-yard scoring pass from River Riley to Colby Knowles, who juked a Falcon cornerback badly and scored on a catch-and-run; and a 26-yard run on a fake field goal by Brice Percival, who was the holder on the play, in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Van Horn offense totaled just 82 yards in the final 24 minutes, most of which came when the game was out of reach. Harrisonville did a good job of bottling up explosive Van Horn running back Devontae Telar, holding him to just 44 yards on 23 carries (1.9 yards per carry).
“Our defense does well, they were just a little goofy in the first half,” Harrisonville head coach Kyle Schenker said. “Otherwise, we are pretty solid on defense. I feel good about them.”
The Falcons started off well as they scored on their opening drive. Aided by a Harrisonville pass interference call that came on third-and-long early in the drive, Van Horn quarterback Sean Mitchell connected with Drevion Downton for a 25-yard TD pass. It was an outstanding effort by Downton. He wrestled the ball away from Harrisonville’s Kyron Beavers, who appeared to have an interception before the speedy Falcon wide receiver came down with it to make it 7-0.
Harrisonville, which tallied 384 yards rushing on 35 attempts, came right back with six running plays, capped by a 2-yard score for Reynolds to tie it at 7. A Mitchell interception led to a 4-yard TD run for Reynolds and Riley later hit Knowles for a 39-yard scoring strike to make it 21-7 with 1:26 left.
Van Horn showed life before halftime, as Mitchell pump faked a throw to Arlandes Mitchell and hit a wide-open Downton for a 26-yard score.
After that, it was all Harrisonville.
“We just made some big adjustments at halftime and our kids executed those adjustments,” Schenker said. “We were really dorky in the first half. But you never know what to expect with kids.”
Mitchell was 12 of 24 passing for 166 yards and two TDs, Caleb Tanis caught five passes for 94 yards and Downton caught six balls for 60 yards and two scores for the Falcons.
Riley was 3 of 12 for 100 yards and two scores for the Wildcats.