With a chill in the November air, Sacred Heart’s push up front – effective all season – fell brittle to the defending 8-man state champion Stanberry Bulldogs.
The Gremlins rushed for 23 total yards on 18 attempts in an 80-40 loss during an 8-man state semifinal Friday at Tiger Stadium in Sedalia.
With the win, Stanberry advances to its fifth-straight championship appearance. Gremlins coach Ben Lyles said the lack of a ground game, against a staunch Bulldogs defense, doomed Sacred Heart
“I don’t care if it’s 8-man or 11-man football, you have to be able to establish the run,” Ben said. “They were more physical and a little quicker up front. I felt like we could throw the ball tonight, but, we want to throw it when we want to throw it, not when we have to.
“We just never could get a running game going, but it had a lot to do with Stanberry.”
Sacred Heart finishes its ninth season of high school football – its third playing 8-man – with a record of 7-4 and replace three graduating seniors with 11 current juniors.
After two 3-and-out Gremlin drives, Trent Lyles mugged Trey Schieber of the ball during a late push for yardage, and returned it 45 yards for the first score of the game. Stanberry blocked the point-after attempt.
Schieber punctuated the next Bulldog drive with a 9-yard rushing touchdown, and Clayton Stoll gave Stanberry the lead, 8-6, on the 2-point conversion. The Bulldogs were 6 for 6 in 2-point conversions in the first half.
Immediately after a Sacred Heart turnover own downs, Bulldog quarterback Cory Luke fooled the Gremlin defense with a fake handoff and dashed 39 yards on the right side for a score.
Stanberry quarterback Cory Luke connected with Cole Craig for a 5-yard passing touchdown on the next Stanberry drive and pushed its lead to 24-6.
The Gremlins briefly cut the deficit to 10 after Alden Harding advanced Sacred Heart to the 2-yard line. Lyles spun into the end zone two plays later for six, and Harding scored the conversion.
On the next play from scrimmage, Luke again duped the Gremlin defense and shed tackles en route to a 65-yard rushing touchdown. Undeterred, Sacred Heart scored on two plays with a successful conversion and trailed 32-20 with five minutes left in the first half.
Stanberry (11-2) blew up an 8-point lead with two scores in before the second half. Schieber dotted a lengthy Bulldog drive with a touchdown on first and goal and, after forcing a turnover on downs, Stoll ran 52 yards through Gremlin tacklers for his first touchdown.
The Bulldogs continued where they left off in the second half. Schieber scored from 55 yards out on the first play from scrimmage, and stayed perfect on conversions.
Harding hauled in a 38-yard heave in the end zone for the first Sacred Heart score in more than a quarter. Teagan Trammell hit the extra point to make it 64-27, Stanberry.
Lyles brought Sacred Heart within 30 on his second defensive touchdown – a 75-yard pick 6. After another Stanberry scoring drive, Micah Tanguay burned his defender and scored on a 65-yard catch-and-run. The Bulldogs led 72-40 after three quarters.
Luke capped a Stanberry drive scoring on a quarterback sneak. The first failed Stanberry 2-point conversion prevented a 40-point lead, but a Bulldog safety on a high snap realized it.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2