In an impressive season-opener, Smithville excelled in every facet on the way to a 42-3 victory against Grain Valley on Friday, Aug. 27.
Junior quarterback Andrew Hedgecorth led an efficient offensive effort thanks to four total touchdowns — two rushing and two passing — while the Warriors’ defense and special teams made sure they stayed in control from start to finish.
Smithville coach Jason Ambroson said he was proud of how composed and in-control his team was against an Eagles’ squad that won district titles each of the past two seasons.
“Our discipline factor was really good,” Ambroson said. “We didn’t have penalties, didn’t turn the ball over. If you play really well, you have a great chance of winning, and it’s because you don’t beat yourself.
“It was very indicative of a group of kids that have been there and done that before.”
The Warriors (1-0) returned most of their starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s Class 4 semifinal appearance, including their starting quarterback in Hedgecorth.
The junior signal caller opened and closed the scoring with touchdown runs and turned in an efficient performance through the air with 272 passing yards on 18-for-21 attempts. Hedgecorth connected with Keltin Nitsche on both of his touchdown passes, including an 84-yarder that put Smithville up 35-0 in the third quarter.
“He understands the concepts in what we’re trying to do. He’s been through it and done that,” Ambroson said of Hedgecorth. “For the way we play and do things, keeping us ahead of the sticks allows us to be successful.
“He always give us a chance because he does things at a very high level.”
Running back Hayden Sigg picked up right where he left off a year ago with 81 rushing yards and a touchdown, while all-state receiver Rhett Foster fought through tough coverage on the way to 53 receiving yards.
But Nitsche in particular enjoyed a spectacular breakout performance with 175 receiving yards on nine receptions, including two touchdowns, giving Smithville yet another game-breaking threat to beware of. Ambroson said Nitsche, also the team’s punter, is a valuable Swiss Army knife for the Warriors no matter where he lines up.
“Keltin works his tail off, does what he’s supposed to do and is a great leader,” Ambroson said. “This was a testament to a kid that keeps getting better. The opportunity presented itself and shows what all his hard work has done.”
Not to be outdone, Smithville’s defense also turned in an impressive effort, limiting Grain Valley (0-1) to just two first downs and just more than 100 yards of total offense.
Senior Cody Simoncic turned in the biggest defensive highlight with a pick-six during the second quarter, while Ty Adkins also recorded an interception. Derek Boyd led the team with five tackles and Dawson Strickland notched a sack.
Smithville recently earned the No. 1 ranking in the first Missouri media Class 4 state poll, receiving seven of the 10 first-place votes, and hopes to continue its strong start this week at home against William Chrisman.
“They take that to heart and did a really good job executing in all phases,” Ambroson said. “I think it was a great start, and now we’ll see where we can make improvements between weeks one and two.”