By Travis Mounts
Both teams in the Goddard Lions-Campus Colts game desperately wanted a win Friday night at Goddard District Stadium.
The Colts went 1-8 last year, while the Lions were winless over nine games. Last week’s game was an opportunity for both schools to start a new season on a positive note, but only one could be victorious.
The victory went to the Lions, who won 56-35 on the strength of big plays in the first half and domination in the second half.
The Lions led 28-14 at one point in the first half with scores coming on two big plays, but it was the Colts who drew first blood.
The Colts methodically moved the ball down the field on the game’s opening possession, driving 86 yards and chewing up nearly eight minutes of the quarter. They took a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard run by Andrue Klitzing.
Campus head coach Jamie Cruce saw a lot of promise in the Colts’ offense, especially in the first half.
“That’s probably as crisp as we’ve looked on offense since I’ve been there,” he said. “Overall, we were pretty effective. Both teams were.”
The Lions needed mere seconds to tie the game as Micah Johnson returned the kickoff 90 yards to tie the game at 7.
The Colts turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, giving the Lions good field position at the Campus 41. The Lions capitalized when quarterback Ashton Sell busted through the Campus defense for a 14-7 Goddard lead. Johnson had an 8-yard carry that put the ball on the one and set up Sell’s touchdown.
The Colts responded with a 59-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Drake McPherson picked up 11 yards on a 3rd-and-12 play. That put the Colts on the 1-yard line, and senior running back Remey Buckles powered into the end zone.
That score was negated on a penalty for an illegal shift, however. It did not matter as McPherson scored on fourth-and-goal from the 6 to tie the game at 14.
The Lions then scored 14 unanswered points. First, they drove 71 yards and took a 20-14 lead on a 2-yard touchdown by Sell.
Goddard head coach Tommy Beason felt the Lions’ new scheme – and the players’ commitment to it – made a difference.
“I felt like what we were doing was new enough, I thought it was a secret weapon,” he said.
Goddard made another big play on the Colts’ first play of the next drive as Sandler Bowyer made a pick-six interception that allowed the Lions to double up the Colts, 28-14.
With just over three minutes left in the half, the Colts were able to drive 72 yards while relying almost exclusively on their running game. They only attempted six passes in the game, and their only two completions came on this drive. The first one put the Colts in the red zone.
The second came on fourth-and-9 at the 17-yard line with 14.2 seconds to play, as McPherson connected with Brody Johnson for a touchdown that cut the Lions’ lead to 28-21 at halftime. McPherson ran for two first downs on the drive and avoided a sack with a wild scramble inside the final minute of the half.
The second half belonged to the Lions, as the Colts’ strong first-half running game disappeared until late in the fourth quarter.
The Lions needed just under 4 minutes for a 65-yard touchdown drive that gave them a 34-21 lead. A 21-yard run by Sell set up Devin Mathes for a 5-yard score.
The Colts’ first drive ended on a fumble after just three plays deep in their own territory, but they caught a break as the Lions missed a 40-yard field goal. It was the first Goddard possession of the game where the Lions did not score, aside from taking a knee to end the first half.
Goddard was proficient with their chances. The Lions forced the Colts into a three-and-out, aided by a Campus holding penalty. Starting at the Campus 49 after the Colts punted from their own end zone, the Lions needed just four plays to score as Mathes scored his second touchdown of the game. Goddard led 42-21, and had scored on four of five possessions.
Campus’ offensive struggles continued as the Colts gave up the ball on downs in their own territory.
On their next possession, the Lions overcame three penalties, including a holding call that wiped out a 40-yard touchdown run by Johnson. Four plays later, Sell ran around the left side and scored. That gave the Lions a 49-21 lead.
Campus found a spark after that, although it wasn’t enough to put them back into this game. But the Colts did force a Goddard punt and scored on consecutive possessions to pull to within 14 points, 49-35, late in the game.
The Lions found the end zone one last time on their final possession of the game, as Jaden Cohens scampered around the right side for a 42-yard score.
This was just one win for the Lions, but it had been a long time since the last – 672 days, Beason said.
“As a club, we have a lot of learning to do,” he said. “It’s a first step. We still have miles to go.”
Beason was not happy to see the Lions let the Colts back into the game. Four seasons removed from their last State championship appearance, the Lions are having to re-learn how to win and to close out games, he said.
The Colts came out of Friday’s game happy about the offense, but realizing they have much to do on defense and special teams. Cruce said Christian Sicard had a good night on both sides of the ball. New quarterback Drake McPherson did a good job with the read option and had a solid night carrying the ball.
Remey Buckles was the Colts’ top runner.
“Remey had his best game in terms of aggressive running. The offensive line performed well, they did a great job,” Cruce said.
The Colts led in yardage, with 408 yards to 290 for the Lions. The Colts ran for 366 yards, and the Lions gained 260.
The Colts’ McPHerson ran for a game-high 153 yard, and Buckles added 119 more. Seven other Colts had positive yardage. The Lions got 125 yards from Micah Johnson, 81 from Cohens and 47 from Ashton Sell.
Turnovers were a key, as the Lions recorded an interception and recovered a Campus fumble. The Lions also had the special teams’ advantage with both a kickoff return and an interception for touchdowns in the first half.
Campus will have its home opener this Friday, the first of back-to-back games at Colt Stadium. The Colts will face the Maize South Mavericks, who opened the season with a 44-16 victory over Andover.
The Lions hit the road this week for the first of two consecutive away games. The will play at the Valley Center Hornets, who won 21-17 at Newton last week.