End season 9-2 with 82-28 defeat at Patonsburg in 8-man District 3 championship game Friday (Nov. 9)
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
PATTONSBURG, Mo. — A strong start can be a huge factor in postseason sports competition, helping steel the nerves and boost the confidence level against an expected strong opponent.
The Southwest Livingston High School football Wildcats accomplished that Friday night in their 8-man District 3 championship clash with the Pattonsburg Panthers in frigid Harrison County. However, a relatively-brief stretch of mistakes in the first half of the second period shattered the Wildcats’ mojo into a thousand pieces, bringing their season to a frozen finish with a still-highly-admirable 9-2 record.
Although scoring first and being within 24-22 of the potent Pattonsburg Panthers 40 seconds into the second quarter, consecutive unsecured Pattonsburg onside kicks led to five Panthers touchdown in a span of 5:45 and eventually an 82-28 road defeat on a brutally-cold night in the shadow of the Pattonsburg school’s distinctive geodesic domes.
When SLHS standout junior quarterback Mack Anderson, who had begun the game’s scoring with a short run to cap the game’s first offensive series and put the visiting Wildcats briefly ahead 6-0, ran 15 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the second quarter and also ran the conversion attempt across, the game was right on track for the high-scoring, shootout-to-the-end scenario which the teams’ resumés had suggested was possible beforehand.
Even when Pattonsburg, which co-ops with eastern neighbor Gilman City and northern neighbor North Harrison as Southwest does with Hale to the east and Tina-Avalon to the south, responded 59 seconds later with a 29-yards scoring pass from record-setting junior passer Steven Wilhite to sophomore receiver Cameron Jones, the margin was only eight points after the Wildcats thwarted the PHS conversion run attempt.
As the teams prepared for the ensuing kickoff, Southwest Livingston fans envisioned a third-consecutive touchdown drive and successful 2-points conversion that would knot the score. However, by the time the Wildcats’ own prolific offense next got its hands on the ball, the deficit which had been only two a short time before had become 10 times that much.
Seemingly by normal design, but possibly also influenced by the approximately-15-degrees temperature which had kicking the ball very far difficult, Pattonsburg followed Jones’ second score of the game and the first of four he’d produce in the first half with a ground-ball, onside kickoff that it recovered right around midfield.
Although Southwest Livingston’s defense battled to get a stop that would keep it a 1-score game, the Panthers made a couple of key conversions – one on fourth down and another on third – to sustain a drive which, in a couple of minutes, concluded with Wilhite tossing a 5-yards touchdown pass to Brett Emig. His third TD catch of the game’s first 12:05 lengthened the host’s lead to 36-22.
As the teams again lined up for the kickoff, it figured that another onside kick would be used. Even though Southwest clearly was prepared, the ball still ended up caroming loose from a Wildcat’s attempt to secure it. When a green-jerseyed Panther came away with it, the Ludlow-based SLHS team was in danger. Soon, it was doomed.
Less than 50 seconds after Emig’s third score, Jones got his on a 15-yards throw from Wilhite and, even with – in congruously, considering the ease with which it put touchdowns on the scoreboard – another failed conversion attempt by Pattonsburg, a game Wildcats fans had anticipated tying only three minutes before now had a 20-points spread, 42-22.
Finally corralling the subsequent kickoff, Southwest Livingston’s offense returned to the fight at last and started moving toward the PHS end zone. However, in what effectively was the death knell on the Wildcats’ season, an Anderson throw was intercepted, leading not long after that to Wilhite’s sixth of seven first-half touchdown throws – this one a 6-yarder to Trevor Ireland. Pattonsburg’s third touchdown in 2:06 – this time followed by a successful conversion pass to Ireland, as well – left Southwest in a 50-22 cavern.
Even with Caleb Eddins, filling in for a few plays for a calf-cramp-stricken Anderson, finding Wyatt Maddux for a 15-yards touchdown pass 3:37 before halftime, it only slowed the hemorrhaging.
On the first PHS play after it covered Southwest Livingston’s onside kick, Wilhite connected with Jones again for a 45-yards score only 10 ticks of the clock after Maddux’s. Then, with Anderson back in and having led the Wildcats to a first-and-goal a minute after that, Panthers defensive back Patrick Cowley read a developing pass play perfectly and, cutting in front of the intended receiver at the goal line, intercepted the throw and scurried unfettered 80 yards to the south end zone for a 62-28 lead.
Ahead by that count at halftime, Pattonsburg leaned more on running plays to speed the game along after intermission, tacking on three more touchdowns along the way – two on Wilhite throws to give him a game total of nine – while blanking the dispirited guests. After scoring 22 points in the game’s first 12:40, Southwest Livingston posted only six more in the last 35:20.
Statistically for the beaten Wildcats, Anderson completed 15 of 34 throws for 169 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, while Eddins went one of five for 15 yards, a TD, and two late interceptions.
Maddux caught seven passes for 74 yards and two scores and fellow senior Nate Reith snared six aerials.
On the ground, Anderson had 21 of the team’s 26 rushes, but was held under 100 yards. He did score twice.