Opening kick boots Trojans
OSAWATOMIE -- De Soto coach Brad Scott pointed out no amount of practice can provide an answer.
"You don't know anything until after the first game," he said.
Friday night, his Wildcats wasted no time calming his nerves.
Tyler Farmer took the opening kick off 81 yards for a touchdown, and De Soto rolled over Osawatomie in the season opener, 21-8.
The win, while not decisive and far from perfect, was enough for one night, Scott said.
"Osawatomie is a quality opponent and we made a lot of mistakes," Scott said after the game. "We just made a couple plays here and there. The opening kick off was probably one of the biggest ones."
The kickoff return was one part deception, one part speed. Austin DeGraeve fielded the ball, then handed off to Farmer as another group of Wildcats ran the opposite direction.
The rest of the game wasn't nearly as slick.
The Wildcat offense, led by sophomore quarterback Jake Morse in his first varsity start, struggled. Morse finished seven for 11 with a touchdown, but was picked off once deep in De Soto territory.
Dustin Ester, a junior fullback, also struggled at times. Though he rumbled for 61 yards, he lost one fumble, again deep in Wildcat territory.
"He ran hard. I won't say he didn't run hard," Scott said of Ester. "But he has got to value the football. He put it on the ground too much. Our fullback can't do that."
Ester's early second quarter fumble gave Osawatomie the ball on the 19. Two plays later quarterback Aaron French connected with Blake Draper for a 24-yard touchdown.
That was the defense's only gaff, however, and the only time De Soto's best unit failed to make up for a slew of mistakes.
After the game-opening kick return, De Soto held when the Trojans went for a fourth down and 11 at the Wildcats 22-yard line.
Morse followed up with his interception, however, and the defense again held on fourth down, this time after Osawatomie had crept inside the 20-yard line.
"We hang on our defense. It's always been that way," Scott said. "We made some mistakes, but none of them killed us."
JT Thompson led with 21 tackles and Trevor Leahy added 14, and finally the offense offered them some help in the second quarter.
Ester broke four tackles and ran for 25 yards, setting up his five yard touchdown run one play later.
Neil Erisman caught two tough passes while tightroping the sideline to march De Soto down the field a second time.
Morse finished the drive off with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Erik Hill.
The second half's only scoring came after the defense again stuffed Osawatomie on fourth down -- this time at the 1-yard line. The Trojans blew Ester up in the endzone on the offense's first play to cut the deficit, 21-8.
"I'm very pleased we could play like we did and still win the ball game," Scott said.
It's a feat Scott doesn't expect to be able to repeat Friday against Prairie View, which lost its opener to Central Heights, 14-0.
De Soto stomped the Buffalos 35-0 last year but the team returns a wealth of starters.
Tucker Brown, an athletic but throwing-challenged quarterback returns, as does the versatile tailback/receiver Colt Nickell.
Brown threw for just 277 yards and a touchdown last year while racking up 11 interceptions, but still impressed Scott with his athletic ability..
"Brown is very athletic, really good outside the pocket. They're going to challenge us," he said. "We simply can't turn it over like we did and expect to win again."