SMITHVILLE — Smithville football did not put its high-powered offense on display in the state quarterfinals.
The Warriors did not really need to.
The team’s defense found the end zone on their own, scoring two defensive touchdowns and setting up another score with four takeaways in just the first five minutes of the second half as the Smithville Warriors won 38-0 over Grandview Friday, Nov. 20, at Grandview High School.
Smithville head coach Jason Ambroson said the defense played lights out from the start and the special teams also helped flip the field throughout the contest.
“We made a few adjustments at halftime, which helped us, but the nice thing about it was the defense kind of took it upon themselves to make stuff happen,” Ambroson said.
Ambroson said the offense moved the ball well in the first half but did not finish drives, partially because of strong defensive effort from Grandview and partially because of small lapses such as penalties or players not getting their eyes up in time to make a play.
“We’ve got to clean that up,” Ambroson said. “Nice thing about it is we get another chance to do that.”
The Smithville offense had five opportunities inside the red zone during the first half, but the team had a turnover on downs and settled for three field goal attempts. The Warriors missed the first two before a third try from junior kicker Noah Schuetz fluttered over the crossbar as time expired in the first half.
Junior running back Hayden Sigg was able to score the lone first-half touchdown when he leaped over the top of defenders and his own offensive linemen for a 1-yard rushing score.
Sigg said the low scoring output in the first half was “uncharacteristic” for this team.
“That’s weird for us,” Sigg said. “Our defense kept us in the game, gave us great field position. We started on our side on one or two series, I think. Every other one was on their 30 or 40.”
The tide turned quickly in the second half as Grandview fumbled a snap inside their own 2-yard line. Sigg punched it in again, this time without the vertical leap as he powered it in on the right side of the line.
Grandview looked like it might get its offense going on the next drive, but a backward lateral dropped to the ground as sophomore Derek Boyd tackled the receiver before he had a chance to haul in the ball. Sophomore Dawson Strickland scooped it up and took off for the touchdown to put the Warriors up 24-0.
Strickland said he was not sure which player hit the receiver and he did not even know at the time if the ball was actually a fumble, but he just played through the whistle like he’s been taught by his coaches.
“I know I had guys blocking for me and when I got into the end zone, the energy was just crazy,” Strickland said.
That energy was very apparent when the Warriors repeated a similar feat on the next drive.
The Bulldogs could not stop the onslaught as Smithville junior Gabe Talley snatched a pass out of the air a few minutes later and turned the interception into a pick-six.
The score finished off a three-touchdown flurry that took Warriors from a 10-0 halftime lead to a commanding 31-0 margin just five minutes into the third quarter. Talley seemed euphoric as he practically floated back to his sideline, jumping and skipping in celebration of the defensive touchdown play.
“It felt unrealistic,” Talley said. “That’s never happened before. Everything just froze. I was running the ball, and I got to the pylon. Then everything came back to reality and I was so happy.”
Just a couple plays later, Strickland found himself with another fumble recovery, this time for a much shorter gain as he jumped on a ball stripped loose from a Grandview ball carrier during a gang tackle by the Warriors defense.
Turnovers were due in large part to the entire defensive line controlling the line of scrimmage to put pressure on Grandview quarterback Chris Connor.
Strickland had three tackles for loss, including a sack, to go along with a sack from senior Zeke Waisner and relentless pressure from junior Mason Crim. Junior Aidan Krahn rounded out the sacks for the Warriors while Talley and junior linebacker/safety Cody Simoncic got in on the backfield action with their own tackles for loss.
“It was a collaborative effort,” Crim said. “From the defensive ends making them work up in the pocket and then the interior guys flushing them out. I think we got some pressure in there and he had to make some uncomfortable throws.”
The Smithville offense showed some of its normal rhythm as it put together a lengthy fourth-quarter drive to pick up one final score. Sophomore quarterback Andrew Hedgecorth found Samuel Calvert in the flat and the junior tight end spun his way into the end zone for a 3-yard score to go up 38-0.
The Warriors have outscored their opponents 123-0 over their three-game run in the postseason.
Smithville (10-2) will face undefeated Helias Catholic (12-0) in the Class 4 state semifinals 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, at Smithville High School. The Crusaders held off a fourth-quarter comeback to beat West Plains 36-30 on Friday, Nov. 20.