Official Blog of the Festus Varsity Football Tigers
by The Gridiron Geek
Friday, September 11th — Festus @ DeSoto High School
The DeSoto Dragons play their home games on a lovely field near Main Street, flanked by Joachim Creek and the good old railroad tracks across which The Geek has spent many a quiet hour fishing.
Well, actually the trains can make a heck of a racket. So can the cars passing over the old bridge just upstream from Walther Park.
But hometown fans would tell you that the DeSoto football field hasn’t been noisy enough in recent years. The Green Gang’s most recent resurgence was in 2008 under previous HC Bobby Thompson, when they racked up an 8-game winning streak and beat Hillsboro soundly before posting 3 consecutive winning seasons. The program has suffered since then, dealing with the difficult large-schools schedule of a MSHSAA Class 4 team.
The 2015 Dragons currently stand at 2-1, though, losing only to fired-up conference rival North County by a touchdown in Week 3.
The Mississippi Conference is decided by a 5-team round robin, so the only chance the hosts have of a top finish is to win out. That means the Tigers will get DeSoto’s best shot tonight.
Just before the warm-up, some rowdy middle school boys attempt to distract a proud member of the Varsity Dragons, found swaggering across the 50-yard line.
“Let us on the field! We can play better than you can!” they shout.
“I cannot let you on the field,” he replies.
“Aww come on! We will schoooooool you!” continues the begging.
“It isn’t my rule,” says the lanky gridder with admirable poise and restraint. “I couldn’t play on the field when I was your age. Go talk to the Principal about it.”
Kudos to the young student-athlete for keeping his composure. But maybe he was just lazy. After all, it would have taken more work to run up the bleachers and chase them away.
Football weather! Finally a crisp, cool day. There will surely be a chill in the air by sundown. Autumn doesn’t officially begin for 2 more weeks, but the swirling wind feels like an early raider. Or a 70’s Raider.
The Black and Gold are coming in to this contest hopeful but anxious. Only a 4th-quarter rally against Windsor last week saved the boys from falling to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference.
Blocking and tackling — the reading, writing and ‘rithmatic of handegg — has improved in fits and starts, but the team must now grow in a hurry if they hope to compete for a conference title, not to mention win this evening’s scrum. The Dragons have suited up 22 seniors, almost 2x the number of this relatively inexperienced Tigers team.
But Elijah Richeson, the flashy junior, is suiting up for FHS tonight after a 2-week layoff due to injury.
As last week against the Owls, FHS has begun the game in the “shotgun,” with senior QB Jarrett Johnson taking the snap from 5 yards behind the line-of-scrimmage.
The shotgun puts the quarterback in a better position to pass, but the first Johnson toss falls incomplete off the hands of #42, the senior Rob Robinson.
After a couple of Tiger 1st downs and a punt to the Dragons’ 20, a busted sweep gives DeSoto 3rd down and long.
“Long pass here. They’re gonna throw deep,” worries Coach Finch in the press box.
But senior Layne Reynolds crashes through for a sack, forcing a fumble! FHS recovers, 16 yards away from the pylons.
More frustration for the offense. 2 short runs and an incompletion brings 4th down and 4. Dancing and prancing, Johnson comes up just short of the marker, giving the ball back on downs.
Terrific defense from the boys. Junior Logan Byerley makes a tackle-for-loss, putting the Dragons behind in down and distance.
A 3rd down pass falls incomplete to Gibbons, who can’t leave the desk like that.
11th grade Tyler Rystrom, an emerging talented runner, returns the DeSoto punt to the Dragon 31.
But once again, the offense sputters early in a game. Jarrett’s long pass for Dallas McKinney is off the junior’s fingertips. Double-J is 0-of-4 passing on the night, but knocks a surprise punt that rolls to the 4 yard line.
If nothing else, the Tigers are winning field position.
After another Dragons punt to end the 1st quarter, Johnson’s 5th pass attempt is picked off near mid-field by sophomore Mayson DeRousse — yes, a cousin of senior Black and Gold running back Zach DeRousse.
Lamont Allen, a swift junior receiver, is the best athlete on the DeSoto roster and a threat to score on every touch. Allen catches a little pass in the flat and makes a circus run to the FHS 10, gaining 40 yards and breaking or eluding about 40 tackles.
Smith runs up the middle for a touchdown on the next play. Perhaps some Friday night in the future, the Varsity Tigers will grab the first lead, but not tonight.
PAT misses wide. DHS 6, FHS 0.
Zach DeRousse says “What’s up, cuz?” and runs the kickoff back to the 50 yard line.
A long completion to senior WR Carlos Austin, but a flag litters the field. Offensive pass interference. Then, McKinney gets open deep but can’t hang on.
The boys are a few missed catches away from leading by a touchdown or two.
The Dragons managed to flip field position with a long punt to the FHS 15, but the Tigers drive steady with junior Tyler Sexton carrying and Johnson slinging passes.
A 25-yard connection to Jordan Winters, as the stout senior advances to the Dragons’ 2 yard line. 1st and goal with time running down in the half.
Somewhere in the wilds of Indonesia, a medicine man who specializes in bad fortune for American football teams is smiling over his evil handiwork with the Black and Gold.
Two penalties. A missed throw. Johnson is now 4-of-12 as the yellow flags keep flying.
But sophomore Chase Cole connects from 27 yards, preventing a 1st half shutout.
Tigers trail 6-3 as the sharp DHS marching band takes the field.
Football is a fascinating sport, cubs. Players, coaches and fans view each game through an emotional lens, causing each side to report wildly different stories.
For instance, suppose the Cleveland Browns rally from a 21-0 deficit to beat the New York Giants. The Cleveland newspaper might read, “Brilliant Browns Rally for Great Comeback!” But the New York headline might read, “Giants Blow It, Blunder in Cleveland.”
A great comeback or a clown-car disaster? Often a little of both. It’s all in your point of view.
That being said, there is very little doubt the Black and Gold should be leading this game. The Tigers have dominated field position, and missed several chances to score touchdowns. Double-J has been cold from the pocket, and plagued by drops.
But a power team should not need to rely on the passing game. If the boys can get their running game cranked up, passing yards will come naturally.
Conference scoreboard: Hillsboro is sending chills throughout the conference, beating the North County Raiders on the road 36-0 at halftime. In a non-conference game, Windsor is beating Cuba by a touchdown.
Class 4 Farmington, a Varsity Tigers rival from days gone by, is locked in a tight battle with 5A Jackson and may manage to pull out a win against the powerful Indians.
Festus begins its first possession of the 2nd half, still trailing 6-3. A penalty (what else?) puts the boys in 3rd and long, but a terrific run-after-catch by speedy junior Seth Perkins gives them a 1st down inside the Dragons 30.
Mayson DeRousse, showing mad skills and agility, dives to intercept Jarrett Johnson’s pass on the 3 yard line. Well, cuz.
DHS nursing the 3-point lead, ailing somewhat on offense. The Tiger defense is taking Allen out of the equation, holding the fast WR to only 2 catches and a handful of short carries.
Punt to mid-field after a sideline warning on DeSoto.
As was the case last week, the offensive line has started plowing the line of scrimmage as the game wears on. Johnson passes complete to Sexton for 15 and Austin for 10, and suddenly 6 Black and Gold receivers have caught passes.
Execution! Distribution! Johnson-a-scootin’, slashes through a seam around right end. A 15 yard touchdown carry will breathe life into the FHS sideline. PAT converts for a 10-6 lead.
TV and radio analysts are big on the differences between prep, college, and NFL football. The Geek rejects that sort of talk in favor of the basics. On all 3 levels, winning the line of scrimmage usually means you win the game.
Layne Reynolds crashes through the opposing O-line for a sack, forcing another DHS punt.
The officials now give a sideline warning to Festus, evening the Warning Score at 1-1.
A rare “chop block” penalty will move the Tiger offense back. 2nd down and 20 from our own 28.
Great catch and run by Seth Perkins for 27 yards! Perkins ran a good old “Sixteen” route, a favorite of former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, known to Tiger padawans as Bobby Hill’s school superintendent.
Jarrett’s throw was right on the money.
2 plays later, ladies and gents — Johnson rolls out left and feels pressure. Off balance, the QB lets a long pass go for…
…wait for it…
The Comeback Kid! Elijah Richeson with a tremendous grab in the end zone. Chase Cole converts again for the 17-6 advantage.
A heart-stopper as Carlos Austin tries to snag an interception, but deflects the ball into the waiting arms of a wide open Dragon receiver. Luckily, neither can hang on and it’s 4th and 2 for DeSoto, just across mid-field.
After a Smith carry to convert on 4th down, the Dragons resume driving, but are eating up the clock. Under 10 minutes left in the game.
Lamont Allen is found open in the end zone by Smith, but clearly pushed off. Flag for offensive pass interference, and the home team soon turns it over on downs.
FHS coaches order the boys back into the traditional Delaware Wing-T for some handy clock-running. But Perkins comes up just short on 3rd down.
The gang in green faces a 4th and long in their own territory. Less than 5 minutes left, the hosts will go for it. Could this be the ballgame?
Nope. Pass complete to Daniel Hoss for 22 yards.
On 2nd-and-goal for the Dragons on the Festus 13, linebacker Abe Kraus breaks aggressively toward the QB, cutting of Smith’s attempt to scramble to the sideline. Huge sack by the tenacious junior, 12 yard loss.
A desperation alley-oop for Wyatt Husch misses, and the Tigers take over with a safe 17-6 lead and 2:21 on the game clock.
The old school Wing-T works this time, and 17-6 will be your final score. The Black and Gold survive another upset bid and stand at 2-0 in the conference!
Scoreboard check: Windsor holds on to beat Cuba, 35-20. Meanwhile, Hillsboro makes a statement against North County…41 to 6. The dangerous Hawks will be visiting your defending Mississippi champs next week, in a handegg scrum that will again decide the conference winner.
Meanwhile, the frustrated but persevering Tigers celebrate another close win that probably should have been at least 41-6.
In the last 2 games, the Tigers have played an excellent quarter and 3 mistake-filled quarters. Only a 4-quarter effort will be enough to beat the Blue and White.
The Geek often wraps up an installment of The Mane with a quote from a local coach from KJFF’s End Zone broadcast. This time a candidate for “best quote of 2015” comes from bloody but unbowed Erik Kruppe, head coach of the Farmington Black Knights, having just lost a tough 35-29 decision to powerful Jackson High School.
“If you keep chopping wood, that tree’s gonna fall down sooner or later.”
Is that a Hawk I see? Up in the tree?
Bring your Black and Gold axes this Friday night, padawans, and let’s give the FHS boys a few extra hundred swinging arms in the stands. See you at the field, 7 PM on Friday night.
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