It had been a few years since Macon football coach Pete Claas had been in overtime, so as his group was tied with Kirksville 20-20 at the end of regulation, he had to explain the format to his players.

That little intro proved to be all Macon needed as it left Kirksville with a 28-20 win after overtime on Friday night, kicking off the season in spectacular fashion as quarterback Blake Claas ran in a 25-yard score on the Tigers’ first possession in overtime.

So here are the key takeaways for both Tiger clubs coming out of Week 1.

Macon is tenacious

Claas emphasized his team’s grit in the post-game huddle, crediting them for how they handled the game’s adversity. Blake Claas was picked off twice on Friday night. Macon was down 20-6 in the third quarter before Claas put together a couple of magical drives. He ran for 44 yards in two plays late the third quarter to shrink the Kirksville lead to 20-14.

Then he hit sophomore receiver Chrisjen Riekeberg for a 32-yard touchdown to tie the game at 20 in the fourth quarter.

“We had our backs against the wall a lot of the night,” Pete Claas said. “I felt like our kids just kept digging a little deeper and finding a way to make a play, finding a way to get a stop on defense or a first down on offense. We weren’t clean by any stretch of the imagination — we were very sloppy — but we found a way to get it done and that’s important.”

“I knew my team had my back. You’ve got to face adversity to be good at high school football,” Blake Claas said. “That’s what you have to do. I knew I had their back and I knew they had mine.”

Kirksville isn’t confident

Conrad Schottel’s club had issues winning close games last year. They squandered late leads at home last year against Palmyra and Marshall, and lost a close game at Macon to start last year. These are losses Schottel said he takes the blame for and looks to turn around. Though since these are issues still lingering from one season into another, he will have to find another way to fix those holes.

“If it’s a close game, we’re not sure if we can go out and grab it yet because we haven’t won close games yet,” said Schottel. “We won one last year and it was kind of a wild, freak deal with Moberly. Then all of our other games were blowouts. We just have to find a way to win a close one. We don’t know how to go and grab a win and take one.

“It goes back to that passive identity,” Schottel said. “We come out firing on all cylinders, we go up by two scores, then we take our foot off the gas. Then we get scored on and then it’s, ‘Let’s try and hold on,’ instead of, ‘Let’s go win.’”

Macon’s offensive line gets big

Pete Claas has spent a ton of time working on his offensive line this season and those big boys were in fine form late against Kirksville. Claas said he told his linemen at halftime that they had to take the game onto their shoulders, and they certainly did. The Macon line gave Claas enough time in the pocket to find Riekeberg deep and gave him the space for his big runs.

“Our offensive line did a great job. They put in the work — I get the credit, but it’s really all them,” Blake Claas said. “I couldn’t be happier for them. … A lot of people doubted our offensive line and said that needed the most work, but I think they proved themselves tonight and showed what they’re capable of.”

Kirksville is one-dimensional

Just as Claas wanted, Kirksville couldn’t get anything started on the ground. The Tigers finished with 61 total rushing yards, with quarterback Paxton Dempsay leading the way with 47. Senior runner Blaine DeVolld did score a two-yard touchdown, but he finished with three total yards on 10 carries.

Dempsay was solid through three quarters, throwing for 282 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Noah Copeland for both. But when things mattered late, he couldn’t do everything by himself. Dempsay was picked off by Macon’s Dominick Mitchell as Kirksville drove near the end of regulation, and then Blake Claas picked him off in the end zone in overtime. With four minutes to go and Kirksville in Macon’s zone, the Kirksville offense brought in its jumbo package on third-and-one and got stuffed, leading to a missed Foster Janes field goal. Kirksville failed to score again in the second half.

If the Tigers can’t run the ball, these issues will continue to happen.

“We’re kind of back at square one. We thought we were going to be able to run the ball a lot better tonight,” Schottel said. “If we’re one-dimensional — there’s no football team that’s good one-dimensional. We’ve got to be able to run the ball. We’ve got to figure something out there.”