Smithville pulls away early in 43-0 win over Kearney in district finals

Smithville junior Samuel Calvert leaps over and past defenders on a reception during the Class 4 District 8 championship game Friday, Nov. 13, at Smithville High School.

SMITHVILLE — Smithville football let the Kearney Bulldogs hang around during their first matchup this season before pulling away in the second half.

The Warriors got things wrapped up a lot faster this time.

Smithville built up a four-touchdown halftime advantage that the Warriors never relinquished on the way to a 43-0 win over the Kearney Bulldogs in the Class 4 District 8 championship game Friday, Nov. 13, at Smithville High School.

Sophomore quarterback Andrew Hedgecorth threw four passing touchdowns, including three during the first half. The first-year signal caller said it felt great leading his team to a district title, particularly after he watched his team come up short in the same game during his freshman year.

“It’s a great feeling,” Hedgecorth said. “We had a good week of practice and we just went out there, played well and the outcome turned out how we wanted.”

Smithville head coach Jason Ambroson said he was proud of the way his team prepared for the game, staying locked in from the first practice of the week all the way through the pregame meal.

“They were just absolutely laser focused and dialed in,” Ambroson said. “They came out with a goal in mind and just played extremely well.”

Although Smithville pulled away with a high-powered passing attack, the Warriors got things started with a slow and methodical opening possession that ate up half of the first quarter before junior running back Hayden Sigg scored a rushing touchdown from 5-yards out.

“I really like the balance that we have,” Ambroson said. “Everybody makes plays. One week it’s Keltin (Nitsche), the next it’s Rhett (Foster) or Sam (Calvert). We throw in Cody Simoncic, he makes some plays, then its Dawson Strickland. Sigg is back there being consistent and just doing his thing. And that all starts with the guys up front.”

That playmaking happens just as much with the defense and special teams units.

Kearney started their first possession on their own 15-yard line after a block in the back penalty on the kick return. The Bulldogs were smothered by a relentless Smithville defense and punted after a three-and-out.

Smithville wasted no time getting back into scoring position to set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Hedgecorth to the sophomore wideout Strickland.

The Warriors defense held Kearney to just three plays again, giving Hedgecorth a chance to improve his team’s 14-0 lead by doubling it with two touchdown throws. Smithville scored on each of its first four possessions.

Hedgecorth found Foster on the first one with a 14-yard touchdown reception. The Warriors followed a pattern they’ve shown all season of being aggressive heading into halftime. The sophomore signal-caller found Calvert for an 18-yard strike with a minute before the break.

Hedgecorth carried the momentum into the second half as he found Foster again, this time for a 37-yard receiving score on the first drive out of the locker room.

“When we all get on the same page, it’s fun to be out there playing,” Hedgecorth said. “It’s not just one person out there. When all 11 of us are going, it’s hard to stop.”

The Warriors defense continued to stifle the Kearney offensive attack throughout the game. Smithville picked up three sacks from Derek Boyd, Gabe Talley and Zeke Waisner. Junior lineman Mason Crim added another tackle for loss as the Warriors held Kearney to just

Kearney head coach Josh Gray said it was tough for his team to get going as multiple offensive lineman and other key starts sat out as last-minute scratches. Gray said he was proud of his team for fighting through adversity and never giving up despite the lopsided score.

“The kids never stopped believing and never thought that we were ever out of the game,” Gray said. “It’s a testament to them and our coaching staff. … Obviously, the way it ended wasn’t what we wanted, but I think our kids played hard.”

The Smithville offense added to the lead a Preston Rash 1-yard rushing touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to close out the scoring in this one.

Smithville (9-2) will face Grandview in the state quarterfinals Friday, Nov. 20, at Grandview High School. Grandview beat Lincoln Prep 14-3 to win their district championship Friday night. The Warriors defeated Grandview 27-12 in their Oct. 2 matchup this season.

Sports Writer Mac Moore can be reached at 389-6643 or mac.moore@mycouriertribune.com.

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