Brown’s dagger not enough to foil Cards
Eudora defeats Wildcats 28-19
As the third option in De Soto's triple option offense, Ryan Brown doesn't get a lot of touches during a game. But in Friday's 28-19 loss to Eudora that opened district action, Brown did exactly what he is supposed to do when opportunities do knock.
"He's what we call our dagger player," De Soto coach Brad Scott said. "He doesn't always see the ball, but somewhere along the line he's going to make that big play -- that play that turns the game."
Brown made several of those plays Friday at Laws Field in Eudora, and it was almost enough to rally the Wildcats from a 14-point halftime deficit.
With two-twenty remaining in the third quarter, Brown broke wide open down the right sideline and hauled in a Neil Erisman pass for a 43-yard gain to the Cardinal nine-yard line.
A play later, the senior hit second gear on an option pitch and out- ran everybody to the end zone, cutting the deficit to 21-13 with just more than a minute to play in the third quarter.
With seven minutes left in the game, Brown took a pitch around the left side for a 27-yard scoring jaunt that cut the margin to 21-19.
"If he runs that hard for the rest of the season we should be in pretty good shape," Scott said. "We were blocking better in the second half, and we were able to put the ball into his hands so he could make plays. He came to play Friday."
A delay of game penalty swung the momentum back to the Cardinals as the Wildcats came up four yards short on the extra point.
"I think that was the turning point in the game," Scott said. "That penalty made it pretty difficult to get into the end zone in that situation."
Alex Mercer made a key play on the final touchdown for the Wildcats when he came across the middle and leaped high to reel in an Erisman pass that covered 28 yards and converted the first down to the Eudora 31-yard line.
But it was on defense where Mercer made his mark.
After allowing the Cardinals to rack up big yardage and score three touchdowns in the first half, De Soto made some adjustments at halftime.
"Alex was a big part of what we wanted to do on defense in the second half," Scott said. "For whatever reason something clicked with him. We're really excited for him and Ryan to continue playing that way the rest of the season."
Of the 23 plays Eudora ran in the second half, Mercer was in on 13 tackles, including a streak in which he made seven stops in a row.
The Cardinals put the game away with less than a minute left when Brendan Jackson struck pay dirt again from two yards out. Eudora quarterback Tyler Cleveland set up the late touchdown when the De Soto coaching staff guessed the next play would go one way and the senior went the other way on a 39-yard run on second down.
The Cardinals dominated the first half, churning out 225 yards of offense and scoring three touchdowns. Two of Eudora's scores came on runs of two- and nine-yards by Jackson and Josh Barr, respectively. The other was a 49-yard aerial strike from Tyler Cleveland to Joey Donahue.
De Soto's lone score of the first half came on the final play of the opening quarter when junior running back Leif Goleman plunged over from the four-yard line.
Goleman's score followed Erisman's recovery of a Troy Van Horn fumbled punt at the Cardinal 15-yard line. It was one of five turnovers the Wildcats hauled in during the opening half to stay in the game.
"I don't think that we as coaches put the kids in the right positions to stop them defensively in the first half," Scott said. "We were finally able to put them in the right positions in the second half, but it was too little too late."
De Soto didn't allow a 100-yard rusher in the game. But the Cardinals did finish with 212 rushing yards on 43 carries and had 329 yards of offense.
Brown led the Wildcat rushing attack with 51 yards on just six carries and caught one pass for 43 yards. Goleman and Erisman ran for 34 and 48 yards, respectively, as the Wildcats finished with 219 yards of total offense.
De Soto, 5-2, continues its quest for a first football playoff appearance since 1993 with a home game Friday against intra-district rival Mill Valley.
A run of injuries hurt the Jaguars this season. But Scott said he expected a tough game with Mill Valley, especially because the visitors are expected to be at or near full strength.
"Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way," Scott said of the bad luck that set in on the Jaguars this season. "You just have to fight through that. Everybody is in the same boat this time of year. We're excited to see how far we've come."