Nobody knew what to expect when Sacred Heart transitioned to 8-man football, including head coach Ben Lyles.
He admits rivalry games are missed, but everyone is having fun after a dramatic 40-38 road victory Friday over Greenfield to capture the District 4 championship.
“I’ve been living it for three days,” Ben said of Friday’s win.
The Wildcats, previously undefeated, topped Sacred Heart 48-32 in the second week of the season. With week two in mind, the outlook appeared dire when the Gremlins’ 12-point lead evaporated before halftime.
“It was eerie at moments because it had the same feel as the first one,” Ben said. “We spotted them quite a few points, and we made a run to get back in it, and got pretty close there in the fourth quarter.”
Down 20 in the third quarter, the Gremlins made a run they would finish. Junior quarterback Trent Lyles led the charge, scoring on a 6-yard run, delivering a successful onside kick and scoring from 4 yards away within the quarter’s final minute.
Trent, who passed for 233 yards, ran for 138 and accounted for six touchdowns, had two more in the fourth. He scored from 13 yards with 10:41 to play, and heaved the 9-yard game-winner to Micah Tanguay with 22 seconds left.
Tanguay had 79 yards on six receptions. Nick Cashman produced 130 yards and caught a pair of touchdowns.
The Gremlins defense had two picks and recovered a fumble. Sacred Heart’s most important stop ended in a Greenfield fumble. On fourth down, the Wildcats attempted a hard-count and jumped offside. The next snap was fumbled, and Sacred Heart took over on downs.
Ben Lyles said the move to 8-man forced the Gremlins to cultivate new competitive relationships with opponents. Friday’s rematch with Greenfield was the first 8-man game that matched the rush of a Kaysinger Conference rivalry game of old.
“Greenfield had that Cole Camp, big-game, rivalry feel,” Ben said. “It was a lot of fun. There were fans everywhere, the hillside was packed … they had a band.”
Sacred Heart looks to replicate that atmosphere 7 p.m., Friday at Tiger Stadium in Sedalia hosting the defending state champions, Stanberry.
Ben Lyles said Stanberry (10-2) should feature a steady dose of dive-option, relying on its quarterback, Cory Luke, to read the defense and run. The Bulldogs have scored more than 600 points while attempting less than 70 passes.
But, as one of four teams left, Sacred Heart has clear expectations: winning two more games.
“The defending state champion, a perennial state power in 8-man football, it’s going to be a tough football game,” Ben said. “We started the season, no expectations, let’s just go play. But, conference championship, district championship – two things we’ve never done, let’s get there. And we did it. We just hope that there’s no let down. You know, one more game and you’re at Faurot Field. To me, that’s awesome.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2.