Big plays doom De Soto
The De Soto football program has long-term goals. Someday, it'd love to resemble the Louisburg machine that rolled into town Friday night.
That's not anything unique, however. The way Louisburg looked in manhandling De Soto 56-19 would make nearly any program in the state a little jealous.
In a battle of Wildcats, it was the purple variety that prevailed. Louisburg's running backs rumbled up and down the field, it's receivers broke big plays on critical third and fourth downs and its defense swarmed around a suddenly-slow looking De Soto offense.
"The number-one thing is they're an excellent football team," De Soto coach Brad Scott said. "They were the best team we saw last year and they're better than they were last year."
De Soto is left with little time to prepare for another tough opponent, the Paola Panthers who will visit De Soto at 7 p.m. Friday for the Cats' homecoming.
Paola edged De Soto last year, making the team pay for a first-half missed extra point en route to a grinding 14-13 victory. The Panthers didn't do much "edging" after that, however, building momentum through the rest of the regular season and piecing together a playoff run that took them all the way to the Class 4A state championship.
That Paola team, which was defeated in the championship game 35-7 by Andale, was led by senior quarterback Jeremy Dillard.
Without him, Scott said the Panthers are a different team. That's not to say he's taking them lightly, however.
"That was a game last year we wished we could have back," Scott said. "The thing about Paola, they're the kind of team that gets better as the year goes on. They do sound things on defense and hard to defend things on offense. They line up and do it over and over, and they do it well.
"We catch them at a time where they're starting to get it. We think we're in for a dogfight."
De Soto would do well to avoid any more games like Friday's.
Both teams came in undefeated, but Louisburg wasted no time taking a comfortable lead. Louisburg quarterback Jeff Woods threw De Soto with a play-action pass on the first play of the game, completing it for 37 yards. After a running play that gained six, running back Derek Rowan burst through the line for a 35-yard touchdown.
Louisburg didn't even waste that much time on its second possession. Senior running back Jason Spradling cut to his right behind the line of scrimmage and ran 79 yards for a second touchdown.
Spradling would tack on a 15-yard pass for a touchdown and another monster scoring run -- a counter play for 77 yards. It was a part of a 256-yard rushing attack for the senior.
It was frustrating for a number of reasons, Scott said.
Spradling did it without outrunning any of De Soto's defenders. Rather, on both of his long touchdown runs he shed tacklers the entire way, both times ditching the final defender inside the five-yard line.
Some of those big runs, in addition to a number of other big plays, came when De Soto seemed to have Louisburg in a corner, too.
Spradling had a 66-yard touchdown called back due to clipping. The penalty came at the very end, so while it kept him out of the end zone, it did allow Louisburg out of a fourth-and-two hole.
His touchdown pass, a screen play in the left flat, came on third-and-goal from the 15.
Another Louisburg touchdown, this one a 44-yard pass from Woods to Colby Kueser, came on fourth and nine.
Kueser scored again in the third quarter on a 77-yard run, helping Louisburg out of a third-and-18 mess.
"We did a lot of things to make them look good," Scott said. "We are not as bad as the score indicated. We went back and looked at the tape and we were just counting how many times we stuffed them on first down or they had a penalty and got backed up. We put them in fourth and long twice and let them out with long passes."
"Every time we'd get them corralled or stopped, they'd break a big play. Spradling's as good a high school running back as you'll see. When we kept him contained, we were fine, but when he got out in open space, that was our downfall."
It was a similar situation on the offensive side, Scott said. De Soto was beaten, but not hopeless. Again, inopportune small mistakes crippled any chances to build momentum.
De Soto senior Shane Miller went 11 yards on a sweep on the Cats' first offensive play of the game. He followed that up with a six-yard dive up the middle, and De Soto had another first down when Erik Hill picked up another six.
The team lost four yards on first down, however, and Hill was sacked on second, putting De Soto too deep to recover.
"We get two first downs and a great down and distance toward a third, then we go for a play-action pass," Scott said. "One receiver slips. Another receiver runs the wrong route and our quarterback slips for a second trying to figure it out and we get sacked.
"It was one person -- a different one every time. When you're playing a great football team, that's all it takes."
Miller eventually helped De Soto get on the board, returning a fumble 14 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. He also ran a score in from nine yards out in the third quarter. Erik Hill scored as well, running in from three yards.