Shut down defense

Steve Bubalo/PrepsKC

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: September 11, 2015 - 10:49 PM



Nobody in attendance at the Lexington-Wellington-Napoleon game tonight expected to see what unfolded on the Minutemen’s home field.

A showdown between a pair of 3-0 schools separated by less than 10 miles was supposed to be a dogfight.

Instead it turned into a one-sided fight.

Lexington was in control of both sides of the ball from late in first quarter until the final snap in a dominating 37-0 victory.

"I don’t think anybody saw that coming,” Minutemen head coach Kyle Barkley said. "A lot of people felt we were the underdog. We felt we were two even teams.”

While that might be the case on a different night, tonight was an entirely different story.

On a third-and-20 late in the first quarter, Lexington quarterback Reese Gassen found Cooper Lynn for a 26-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead and just like that, the Minutemen were off to the races.

"As soon as we hit that first one (touchdown) it was like everything clicked,” Lexington running back Warren Sheppard said. "We got a rhythm going."

Quite frankly, Sheppard could have been talking about either side of the ball with that comment. And while the offense would go on to score on five of its final seven possessions, the defensive performance might have been even more impressive than the offense.

The Class 1 fifth-ranked Tigers came into the game averaging 45 points per game. Quarterback Dallas Reynolds leads a dynamic passing game and small - but fast and shifty - running back Jordan Hill has been a spark plug in the running game. On this night, it didn’t matter what the Tiger offense tried, it wasn’t going to work.

Hill did his best to find holes to run through but was dropped for losses frequently. Reynolds, despite a few solid gains through the air, faced a lot of pressure and was picked off twice.

"They turned it over on us, interceptions, fumbles, you name it, they did it,” Tigers head coach Quenten Bainbridge said. "Their defense flat whooped us. They had our pass and run game flustered. They have a lot of speed and talent. Even if we had a seam, a run that would go for 10 or 15 yards in previous weeks, it would go for 3 yards tonight.”

With Hill unable to gain any traction in the run game, it put more pressure on Reynolds and the passing game.

"That put them in a crutch,” Sheppard said. “He (Hill) is fast but he’s small. And we’ve got some big, towering guys up front.”

After a Sheppard touchdown run made it 14-0, the Tigers had their best chance to score and get back in the game thanks to a big pass play to Duncan Hughes, which put them inside the 20. But two plays later Blake Johnson intercepted a pass in the end zone and six plays later, Sheppard was back in the end zone for a 21-0 Minutemen lead.

"That was a big momentum-swing to keep them out of the end zone,” Barkley said. “… We had a great defensive plan. We maybe didn’t think it would go this well. But we flew around and had fun. We were able to control the ball on offense.”

Indeed they were, as the legs of Sheppard, Lynn and occasionally Gassen, led by fullback DeHaven McCrary and a strong offensive line kept the explosive Tiger offense on the sideline.

Sheppard would finish with three touchdown runs and Gassen would add another.

"No. 44 (McCrary), he is the craziest blocker. I love that kid to death,” Sheppard said. “The offensive line opened up some fantastic holes. They did their job. They’re phenomenal.”

While the loss hurt and dropped the Tigers to 3-1 on the season, Bainbridge tried to stay positive.

"Last year they did this to us and it was the best thing for us. Hopefully, this will be another springboard,” he said.

Lexington stayed undefeated at 4-0 to go along with some bragging rights over its rival.

"There was a lot of trash-talk this summer,” Sheppard said with a smile. "A lot of people thought we were the underdog. In my three years we’ve gone 3-7, 6-4 and now we’re 4-0. We’re on track to be greater.”