Nevada Daily Mail
The playoffs. It's a time when the season starts anew and things really start to matter.
Thursday night at Logan Field, the Nevada Tigers and the Tigers of Warrensburg got their first taste of that excitement as they squared off in the only game of the first week of the Class 4, District 7 tournament that was played on the night. Head coach Wes Beachler's Tigers got the top seed in the district and took full advantage of the edge that seeding afforded them, opening up the contest early and never looking back on their way to a 54-29 victory.
The Nevada Tigers came into their second battle against Tigers of a different color on a high from winning their final six consecutive regular season games -- a streak that was capped off by a 52-14 win over Stockton last week. Head coach Scott Grinde's Warrensburg Tigers, on the other hand, came into the night with a record of 0-9 on the season after a 10-6 loss to O'Hara in the final game of the regular season.
Prior to Thursday night's kickoff, Nevada High School athletic director Kevin McKinley led pregame ceremonies in which more than 70 former Nevada High School football players, coaches, cheerleaders and even band members were honored for their participation and support of the program. These alumni spanned more than six decades, with the oldest being former Nevada Tigers quarterback Winnie Baucom, who graduated in 1941 and was celebrating his 90th birthday Thursday.
Among the 74 preregistered participants, graduation years spanned from 1941-2008.
After pregame ceremonies concluded, Nevada drew first blood in the contest on quarterback Alex Payne's first pass attempt of the night. Payne connected with Nathan Colopy for 19 yards to make it 6-0 with 5 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first quarter.
Warrensburg spent the majority of the season relying on a strong passing game, but came out Thursday night focusing almost complete on the run. Nevada sniffed it out right from the start and made Warrensburg pay for its lack of execution, forcing a fumble at the Warrensburg 15 with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
It looked as though the Tigers would score quickly once again and open up the game, but when the ball came loose after Bradey Denney's 14-yard run, the officials ruled a fumble despite Denney's knee being obviously down before he lost the ball, giving it right back to Warrensburg. The Tigers' defense held once again, however, and Dalton Hendren extended the lead on Nevada's next drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to make it 14-0.
The Tigers turned the ball over yet again with 4:27 left in the half when Hendren lost it at the Nevada 9. This time, Warrensburg was able to take advantage, cutting the lead to 14-7 with 4:16 to go in the half on Zach Nowlin's 9-yard touchdown run.
The Tigers seemed unfazed after that miscue, however, taking the ball back down the field and into the end zone to make it 21-7 with 2:55 left on a drive that was capped off by a 33-yard touchdown run by Denney.
Warrensburg finally got its offense going late in the second half as Marr finally found his rhythm in the pocket. With 1:34 to go, Marr ultimately capped off Warrensburg's strongest drive of the half with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Briscoe to make it 21-14.
The Tigers added the last score of the half with 22 seconds to go as Denney took his second touchdown of the night -- an 11-yard run up the middle -- to take a 27-14 lead. That was the end of the scoring for the first half and Warrensburg headed to the locker room with a 13-point deficit, thanks to a deep throw by Marr on the last play of the half that was intercepted by Keegan Bell.
"We played pretty well defensively," Beachler said.
The Tigers finished the half leading in nearly every statistical category as they ran for a total of 225 yards and passed for 23 more, bringing their total to 248 yards of offense. For Warrensburg, Marr passed for 91 yards, while Grinde's Tigers rushed for just 17 yards.
Hendren wasted little time putting a stop to the little bit of momentum Warrensburg started to gain at the end of the second half, taking a 47-yard scamper into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night. As they have in a number of games this season, PAT kicks were an issue for the Tigers Thursday night, leading Beachler to attempt a two-point conversion that gave Nevada a 35-14 lead.
With just over 3 minutes left in the third quarter, Taylor Manes got in on the act for the Tigers, taking a 68-yard run right through the middle of the Warrensburg defense and into the end zone. After yet another missed PAT kick, the Tigers took a 41-14 lead with 3:19 to go in the third quarter.
That seemed to be all Nevada needed to cause Warrensburg to collapse almost completely as Marr threw his second pick of the night to Bell on the very next play. The Tigers were unable to take advantage, but Bo Mackey gave the ball right back as he muffed a punt at his own 25-yard line and Payne took advantage this time, throwing his only pass of the half for a 25-yard touchdown to Colopy to make it 48-14 at the end of the third quarter.
Despite being down by 34 points late in the game, Marr never gave up and cut into that lead with a 64-yard touchdown run. That gave Warrensburg a little bit of life, cutting the lead to 27 at 48-21 with 7:31 to go.
Beachler's Tigers tacked on one more score with the backups on the field late in the fourth quarter. Chance Mays got in on the action with a 7-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 54-21 advantage.
"We spread the ball around quite a bit and it's good to have options," Beachler said. "We've got a lot of kids that are capable of making big plays for us and so, that's a nice luxury to have."
Warrensburg wasn't quite done, however, as they added the game's final score on a 10-yard pass from Marr to Nick Crider to cut the lead to 54-29. That was where it ended, giving the Tigers their eighth win of the year by 25 points.
The Tigers finished the game with 435 rushing yards, led by Hendren's 184. Payne finished the night 3-for-4 for 48 yards and two touchdowns.
With the win, the Tigers remain alive in the 2012 playoffs with a record of 8-2 and will come back to Logan Field on Oct. 31 to play either Harrisonville or Grandview.
"Whoever wins that game and whoever shows up here, that's who we'll prepare for and that's who we'll play," Beachler said, pointing out that he doesn't care who that team might be. "At this point, we just want to the best of our ability and get ready to play whoever comes out of that game."