After Hamilton pulled back even at 21-all, "Mid-Buck" scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a row to prevail 41-21 Saturday (Nov. 17, 2018)
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
HAMILTON, Mo. — HAMILTON — Just when, having been climbing uphill on the scoreboard since late in the first quarter, the Hamilton: Penney High School football Hornets seemed to have their pre-Thanksgiving table set for a season-extending state-quarterfinals victory over visiting Mid-Buchanan Saturday, the guest Dragons caught fire for a scorching finish that propelled them to a 41-21 triumph.
While Hamilton’s season was shuttered with a final 9-4 mark, Mid-Buchanan will take that same record into a home state-semifinals battle with Lincoln this coming Saturday.
Having trailed 7-0 for about half of the first half before knotting the score at intermission and then falling in arrears 14-7 and 21-13 in the third quarter, head coach Caleb Obert’s Hornets came back a third time just over two minutes into the fourth and final period when they sprang sophomore running back Sawyer Morrow free for a 45-yards inside run for a touchdown and then for a 2-points conversion that squared the contest at 21-21 with 9:55 to play.
With a considerable, cold, north wind in the face of the Dragons, who count a lot on their ability to pass the ball, in the last stanza, the scene looked set for run-oriented Hamilton to benefit from the weather conditions with a defensive stop and a subsequent, clock-eating scoring drive that would give it a lead for the first time on the day with relatively-little time remaining.
There was just one thing. Mid-Buchanan, an overtime loser to Hamilton on the MBHS field at Willow Brook two months earlier, had plans of its own and a destiny to fulfill.
Defying the wind in his face, Dragons sophomore quarterback Jadan Noyes, after rolling out to his left, squared up to fire a strike to senior end Riley Brill for a 30-yards gain to the Hamilton 30 on the second MBHS offensive play following Morrow’s tying scores.
Then, after two runs left it with a third-and-5, “Mid-Buck” pulled out a play it had not used previously in the game and hit the jackpot.
From shotgun formation, Noyes underhanded the ball slightly forward to junior Christian Scaggs, one of the Dragons’ big-play wide receivers, as Scaggs sped laterally through the backfield. The “shovel” pass received in full stride, the lanky MBHS receiver got to the left edge before the Hamilton defense could get containment on him and, angling upfield, sped to the north end zone of Alumni Field. For a fourth time, the visitors had taken a 1-touchdown lead, although a misfire on the extra-point kick attempt left the door open, with 8:10 to go, for the home team to still potentially prevail with a single TD and any conversion.
Hamilton quickly slammed that door shut on its own fingers, however.
On a simple running play on the initial snap of its series following Scaggs’ second touchdown of the game, the Hornets fumbled the ball away for a third time in the game, this time at their own 22, and Mid-Buchanan made them pay dearly.
Again calling Scaggs’ number on the “shovel” pass, except this time going left to right, the Dragons gained nine yards on their first-down play. Noyes, a strong, though somewhat squat, runner, then slashed off left tackle on a stretch run to pick up 10 yards.
In a first-and-goal jam, Hamilton’s stunned defense tried to muster a goal-line stand, stopping Noyes for a 1-yard loss and then Scaggs for minus five on yet another “shovel” pass. However, on third-and-goal from the Hornets’ 9, MBHS and Noyes took advantage of the height and size advantage the 6’3”, 205-pounds Brill had on the defensive back covering him man-to-man, lobbing a “fade” route toss that a backpedaling Brill snared as he gained separation a few yards into the end zone. With only 5:36 to go, that strike and Noyes’ following conversion blast gave the visitors a 35-21 lead that all but sealed the win.
Needing to score quickly, Hamilton instead had back-to-back pass incompletions after being in a third-and-3 situation from its own 37, effectively ending any slight miracle-rally hope.
Just to be sure, Mid-Buchanan punched the ball in one more time, using six plays – all of them Noyes keepers – to cover the 37 yards and set the final score.
The home team, which also saw its hopes of a trip to the 2015 state-championship game also die on Alumni Field when Westran pulled away a bit in the closing minutes, never could get an upper hand in Saturday’s action, but did show plenty of grit by repeatedly fighting back.
A 52-yards touchdown connection from Noyes to Brill with the wind at MBHS’ back and about 1-1/2 minutes left in the opening period put the first points of the day on the scoreboard.
It stayed 7-0 until Cale Whitt’s stop of Brill for no gain on a fourth-and-3 wide-receiver screen gave the Hornets favorable field position at their own 41 with only 2:08 remaining in the opening half.
A 20-yards pop off left tackle by Morrow on the first play of the Hamilton offensive series quickly made it the Hornets’ most-serious scoring threat yet. Four plays later, on fourth-and-4, Ryan Cook pegged a right-side, hook-route strike to senior end Michael Roberts for a 6-yards pickup and a new set of downs.
Having missed an open Whitt on a deep throw that would have gone for six points earlier in the drive, Cook found him down the middle for 17 yards to the 10 on the snap after Roberts’ receptions. After hitting Morrow with a flare pass to the left side for eight yards, Cook handed the ball off to the sophomore standout for a 2-yards touchdown run with a half-minute left in the half. Morrow’s conversion kick left the game dead even again, 7-7, at intermission.
Getting the ball to start the last half, Mid-Buchanan, going into the wind, ran the ball 10 consecutive times – eight of them by Noyes, its leading rusher on the season. Gaining 16 yards on one of those and 29 on another, the sophomore quarterback helped create a first-and-goal at the Hamilton 4.
Just as would happen later in the half, the Hornets’ defense held fast on first and second downs, but, with excellent protection, Noyes at last was able to spot and lob a high pass that Brill reached high to snag just inside the back line of the end zone for a 5-yards touchdown. The 11-plays march used up over 4-1/2 minutes and, with the point-after kick, once more left Hamilton in a 7-points hole.
The Hornets responded rapidly, earning one first down on an 11-yards Morrow run before the sophomore, starting up the middle, then angling left, found a lane to the west sideline and out-ran two pursuers with good angles for a 63-yards dash.
The conversion attempt went awry, however, as the snap appeared to be off-line, prompting holder Cook to rise and roll out to his right before throwing an incompletion.
Still ahead by one, Mid-Buchanan could not move the ball, but, with the wind, got a booming, 64-yards punt that rolled dead at the Hamilton 6. When the Hornets, after one first down, stalled and also had to punt, their kick into the wind only made it to their 45.
On second-and-12, Noyes located Scaggs with a curl-in pass about 20 yards downfield in a way that gave the junior time and room to quickly turn upfield and elude a couple of would-be tacklers for a 47-yards scoring play that made it 20-13. When the point-after kick was true, the margin became eight points with 1:32 left in the third period. That proved to be the first of 4-straight game-closing and win-earning touchdown-producing possessions for the Dragons.
However, before the last three of those, Hamilton put in its bid to seize control.
Following Scaggs’ 47-yards scoring play, the Hornets twice in a row converted in third-and-5 situations on Cook runs of five and six yards, respectively.
Two plays after the latter of those, the left side of the Hamilton offensive line created a crease Morrow popped through into the second level and beyond. Despite twice nearly losing his balance as he navigated his way between pursuers, Morrow stayed upright and took the ball into the end zone for his and the Hornets’ third TD of the game, narrowing the deficit to 21-19. When the left-side blockers again opened space for him to cross the goal line standing up on the 2-points conversion attempt, Hamilton had tied the game again, but for the last time, it turned out.
Statistically, Mid-Buchanan had very good offensive balance, in terms of air and ground yardage. Noyes unofficially ran the ball about 35 times for around 175 yards and completed 11 of 20 passes for 185 yards and four touchdowns. After halftime, the Dragons quarterback hit on seven of nine throws – several of them the near-handoff “shovel” pass completions – for 120 yards. After being intercepted twice before halftime, he was unblemished after it and the Dragons did not fumble.
Spiced by his two long TD runs, Hamilton’s Morrow unofficially gained just over 240 yards on 25 totes. The Hornets’ air game provided only about 50 other yards, though, on 7-of-12 Cook accuracy and Hamilton fumbled the ball away three times.