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Van Horn battles but can't keep up with Lincoln Prep

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

Each time Lincoln Prep seemed to deliver the knockout blow, the Van Horn football team just kept coming in the Class 4 District 7 semifinals.

It seemed like the top-seeded Blue Tigers were going to run away with the game in the first half, but a couple of fortunate breaks kept the Falcons in it. And Van Horn kept within striking distance until Lincoln Prep rattled off three consecutive touchdowns to cap the scoring in a 62-27 victory Friday at Bryan Field in Kansas City.

The Van Horn defense, which has struggled all season, got stops on only two of 10 Blue Tiger possessions. It had a hard time stopping quarterback Howard Brown and running back Jermaine Hamilton.

Brown, who committed to Iowa State as a defensive tackle, was a load for the Falcons to bring down at 6-foot-2, 320 pounds. He rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries. He also completed eight of 13 passes for 193 yards and four scores.

“He’s been like that all year, and we have seen it and everyone has had to deal with it,” Van Horn head coach William Harris said of Brown’s unique athleticism and size at quarterback, despite being almost 300 pounds. “It’s one of those things where the physicality and toughness is different. You have to be sound on your tackling when you go against a guy like that.”

It’s those kinds of performances Lincoln Prep head coach William Lowe expects out of Brown.

“We expect him to play at a high level like that every week,” Lowe said. “That’s just normal for Howard, just a lot of people don’t get a chance to see him. If he wasn’t 320 pounds, he’d get a lot more respect at quarterback.”

Hamilton aided Brown by rushing for 116 yards on seven carries, caught two balls for 37 yards and a score and also had an interception return for a touchdown late in the second half.

Lincoln Prep scored 28 points in the first 24 minutes on a 58-yard jaunt from Hamilton; and TD runs of 4 and 80 and a 43-yard scoring pass from Brown.

Van Horn had a couple of fortunate plays go its way to keep within striking distance, however.

On fourth-and-goal from the 6, Van Horn quarterback Sean Mitchell had a pass tipped by a Blue Tiger linebacker in front of the goal line. The ball flew backward and into the hands of D’Anthony Jones in the back of the end zone for a score.

To end the half, Mitchell connected on a 44-yard Hail Mary pass to Arlandes Mitchell, who managed to haul in the ball despite being double-teamed. A missed extra point made it 28-13 at halftime.

Van Horn went three-and-out on its opening possession of the second half, and a high snap on a punt attempt set up Lincoln Prep at the 5, and Brown later punched it in from 2 yards out to make it 35-13.

Arlandes Mitchell immediately answered with a 91-yard kickoff return to narrow the gap to 35-20. The Falcons recovered a fumble on Lincoln Prep’s first play of the ensuing drive, but failed to cash in. The Van Horn offense sputtered and went three-and-out following a false start and an intentional grounding penalty.

Brown capitalized on the next drive by hitting Hamilton on a 21-yard play-action pass for a touchdown to extend the lead to 42-20 with 4:19 left in the third. The Falcons pulled within 15 once more on their next possession after Sean Mitchell got the right edge and scampered 49 yards  to the end zone.

On the kickoff, Van Horn recovered the onside kick but again couldn’t take advantage of it, going three-and-out again.

The Blue Tigers scored the last three touchdowns on a 55-yard screen pass from Brown to Darryl Williams, a 38-yard pass from Brown to Williams and a 26-yard interception return from Hamilton.

“You realize there are things you need to fix early in the season, and if you don’t get them fixed, those are the things that are going to come back and bite you,” Harris said of his defense. “Tackling and physicality has been an issue for us all season.”

Despite the loss, Harris can look forward to retaining most of his players as only six seniors will graduate, but those include key pieces like both Mitchells, defensive end Jason Skivers and center David Ballard. Van Horn finished at 5-6.

“I don’t like being average so I don’t feel happy (about the season),” Harris said. “It’s too early. I haven’t sat back and looked at everything in totality yet. We did some good things. We knew we would take some lumps being young.”

Sean Mitchell led the Falcons with 121 yards rushing on 18 carries and connected on 10 of 21 passes for 88 yards.