In a rematch from last year's semifinals, the Harrisonville Wildcats overcame a two-touchdown deficit in the game's final 13 1/2 minutes to startle the Crusaders 22-21 in the opener for both clubs at a steamy Adkins Stadium
Last year, the Wildcats converted a two-point conversion in overtime to beat the Crusaders, 38-37.
Helias won the semifinal rematch and advanced to the state championship game.
night, the Wildcats converted a two-point conversion with
left to beat the Crusaders once again.
A rematch, perhaps? We'll see. That was not, however on Phil Pitts' mind
His face was a portrait of disappointment.
"We've got a lot of guys on this team that are hurting right now, a lot of guys who could have made a play and coaches who know we could have done something different," said the Helias head coach.
"We just have to look in the mirror and get it fixed."
night's game didn't go to overtime, but it felt like it did.
Due to six heat-induced water breaks (needed), and some slow, deliberate and penalty-filled play (not needed), this game staggered across the finish line in 2 hours, 50 minutes.
The third-ranked Bulldogs fired the opening salvo, taking the opening kickoff and sprinting 67 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard run by Zach Davidson.
Remember that name. Davidson wasn't done running.
The second-ranked Crusaders answered with touchdowns on their first two possessions to take a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter. These drives were courtesy of senior quarterback Wyatt Porter, who accounted for all 124 yards on the drives, including 59 yards rushing.
"Wyatt's a good runner; he's a big, strong kid and he knows how to finish his runs off," Pitts said.
It was his touchdown passes, however, that gave Helias the lead --- 25 yards to Hale Hentges and 34 yards to Brock Gerstner on 4TH-AND-17.
The lead grew to 21-7 midway through the third quarter when Porter tossed a 27-yard scoring pass to Michael Tannehill, who turned a short swing pass into a touchdown.
That was it for the Helias scoring, however.
"We had drives where we could have sealed the game," Pitts said, "if we could have put it in the end zone."
After Tannehill's score, the Wildcats had their way. They came back with an eight-play, 69-yard drive --- all rushing attempts --- to get within 21-14 on a 10-yard run by Austin Hopper with
left in the third quarter.
Helias hoped to wear down its opponents with its depth of talent, especially in the heat. But the opposite seemed to happen.
"It looked that way," Pitts said. "We'll have to go back and re-evaluate that and find out what we could have done differently."
Harrisonville dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half, outgaining Helias by a whopping 156-9 on the ground.
"We were able to get some of the inside option going," Wildcats coach Chuck Lliteras said. "They were shutting us down pretty good on the outside, but when you put a finger in the dyke in one place, a hole opens up somewhere else."
The Wildcats pulled within 21-20 when Hopper, the fullback who rushed for 114 yards, scampered free for a 44-yard score.
left. Timeout, Harrisonville.
"I've been doing this for 33 years," Lliteras said. "In this situation, in this type of game and this type of heat, it was a no-brainer.
"We were going to go for two."
And they got it, when Davidson faked to Hopper then plunged into the end zone.
"Our defense," Pitts said, "just didn't get it done in the fourth quarter."
The final drive ended on downs for Helias, which received 205 yards passing from Porter (12-of-26).
"We have to come back to work; one loss won't put us down for the season," Pitts said.
Remember last year.
"Nobody likes that to be the case, but I'm sure we'll try to build on that," Pitts said.
"At least we have that to fall back on."