Smith-Cotton claims the crown

Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

By Kyle Palmer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 16, 2015 - 11:10 PM

On a night when much of Kansas City’s attention was turned to baseball, Sedalia Smith-Cotton’s own home-run hitter turned heads in a conference title clinching 27-17 win at Center.

Tigers’ senior running back Carlton Homan rushed for 194 yards and two scores, including a backbreaking 39-yard touchdown with just over three minutes to play to put Smith-Cotton up 10 on the Yellowjackets.  

“I was pretty nervous when I got around the edge on that last run. I thought, ‘They’re faster than me.’ But I just made sure to not fumble and keep running. Luckily, I was able to get it in there,” Homan said.

Making that play sweeter was the fact that it came on fourth-and-2. Center was hoping to get a stop and take over on downs with a chance to drive for a tying or winning score.

“We would have had a chance, but like you saw, they just ran right through us. Those are some senior runners that go downhill. They make you work to bring them down and we didn’t do it,” said Center coach Bryan DeLong.

Just before that decisive drive by Smith-Cotton, Center had gotten a critical score on a trick play to draw to within three. Running back Norvell Trent took a throw in the flat from quarterback Amaun Ryan then spun back and zinged a spiral to Robert Guillium, who pranced into the end zone. The extra point made it 20-17 with nearly eight minutes to play.

“We’ve had trick plays like that that we’ve worked on in practice all year,” DeLong said. “But we’ve never really had cause to use them in a game until now. I thought it was a good time to pull out all the stops.”

Why not? This game pitted the West Central Conference’s top two teams against each other. Both came in undefeated. The winner would earn a bye during next week’s opening playoff round.

“We’ve never experienced that.  We told them before the game: leave it out on the field, and earn yourself a bye. This is huge,” said Smith-Cotton coach Ryan Boyer.

This is Boyer’s first conference title, after his predecessor Mark Johnson won four before retiring in 2013.

The teams sized each other up in the first quarter, neither breaking through until Trent ripped off a 67-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter.

That put Center up 7-0. Trent finished with 151 yards on 16 carries to go along with his touchdown pass.

But the Tigers responded quickly, something Center opponents have often failed to do this year. The Yellowjackets had won their previous eight games by an average of nearly 34 points.

Smith-Cotton took the ensuing drive 80 yards on 8 plays. Quarterback Caleb Reed lofted a perfect fade to Blake Jackson for a 38-yard score that knotted it up at 7-7.

Both Reed and Jackson, like Homan, are seniors.

“Our leaders, our seniors, wanted the ball tonight. You want those guys to have it. I told them: it’s your team, your season,” Boyer said.

Later in the second quarter, Center went up 10-7 on a 31-yard field goal by Jay Stephenson. That came after a bizarre moment, when the officials lost count of the downs allowing Center to convert on a fifth down play.

Smith-Cotton’s sizeable contingent of black-and-gold clad fans howled, but the players played on.

After a big 52-yard kickoff return from Jackson, the Tigers marched 39 yards on 11 plays. With only four seconds on the first-half clock, Noah Aziere, yet another senior, punched it in from one yard out.

Smith-Cotton went into the half up 13-10 after a blocked extra point.

The biggest hits were still to come. Homan had his longest run of the night on the opening drive of the third quarter, when he rumbled 54 yards for a score that made it 20-10.

“It’s surreal,” said Homan. “From my freshman year, when we weren’t that good to now. I can’t believe it. We’ve progressively gotten better each year, and to do this on the road, it’s special.”

Homan and his teammates will have a week to contemplate their success before entering the fray of district playoffs. Now they’re the heavy hitters.