Tigers fall to Reeds Spring in Big 8 debut, 52-32
Reeds Spring — The Nevada Tigers received a rude welcoming in their Big 8 conference debut Friday night, as a turnover marred third quarter led to a 52-32 road defeat at the hands of fellow Big 8 newbie Reeds Spring High School Wolves.
Trailing 20-18 at halftime, the Tigers opened the second half with back-to-back turnovers. Working with a short field in both instances, Reeds Spring quarterback Blake Gronvold and company cashed in with touchdowns on both drives, en route to outscoring the Tigers 32-0 in the third quarter to build an insurmountable 52-18 advantage.
“That’s the game of football,” said Nevada head coach Wes Beachler during his postgame radio interview with Mike Harbit of KNEM-KNMO 1240. “We missed an opportunity right before the half — a missed read on a pass play, where we had the tailback wide open on a wheel route for a touchdown that would have put us up. And those are things we’ll get better at.”
Turnovers mounted for the Tigers in the third quarter, with one coming on Nevada’s inability field a kick off, and the Wolves recovering deep in Tiger territory.
“When you play in the Big 8, and play the competitive schedule we play, you can’t do what we did,” began Beachler. “We fumbled twice, threw a pick, and didn’t (field) a squib quick.”
Beachler continued: “We gave the ball (away) inside of our 35 three times I think in our first three series in the third quarter. Just too many mistakes in a competitive game.”
Throughout the third quarter the Tigers were unable to contain Gronvold, who scampered into the end zone from 16-yards out, as well as linking up with his favorite target, receiver Cole Watson, for three touchdowns.
“Attrition is going to be a problem,” continued Beachler on his radio interview. “We’ve talked about it for the last couple of years — we don’t have a lot of depth. We’ve got nine kids starting both ways.”
Beachler said his squad is going to have to “play itself into shape,” as the veteran head coach went on to explain an uneven summer practice schedule, in accordance with Missouri State High School Activities Association guidelines.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me that we can train kids all summer, and then take nine days off, and then have two weeks of practice and play a game,” he said. “Nobody’s in real good shape right now. They had a little more depth than we had. And we just have to get in better shape, because our kids who are starting, are going to be starting both ways and playing the majority of the game — and we just have to deal with that.”
Nevada was also hurt by Reeds Spring senior tailback Seth Stamps, who gashed the Tiger defense for 75 yards rushing in the first half, punctuated by a 30-yard touchdown romp. The successful two-point try handed the Wolves a 20-12 advantage.
The Tigers struck back late in the second half as quarterback Matt Thorp connected with tight end Trey Beachler on third-and-7 for a 13 yard touchdown. The Tigers came up empty for the third consecutive time on their extra point attempt and trailed, 20-18.
A major bright spot for Nevada was the play of dynamic sophomore kick-returner/tailback Kaden Denney, who tallied two first half touchdowns.
On Nevada’s opening play from scrimmage senior tailback Jaren Powrie took a toss-pitch from Thorp and rolled to the right, throwing a strike to a wide-open Denney, who strolled into the end-zone for the 52-yard score and a 6-0 Nevada advantage.
“It’s one of those things where (opponents) are expecting us to run sweep-type plays,” said Beachler. “Anytime we can give somebody that look and throw the ball, usually it’s a pretty good play to start a game or drive with. And we thought that would be there.”
Reeds Spring responded on the ensuing drive, capped by Gronvold’s 18-yard touchdown toss to Watson. A failed point after attempt left the contest knotted at six-apiece.
On the ensuing kickoff the electrifying Denney fielded the ball at his own 4-yard line, and broke off a 96-yard return to paydirt.
Beachler indicated the season-opening loss should serve as a good learning experience for his young squad.
“This is just a good gut-check,” said Beachler, who has spent a total of 27 seasons on the prep sidelines. “We are young, and we’ve got a lot of inexperience. Linebackers, not a lot of experience, and offensive backfield not a lot of experience.”
Beachler, who also serves as the team’s offensive coordinator, wasn’t pleased with his club’s play up front. “We made too many doggone mistakes up front. For the kind of offensive line that we have, we blew some blocking (assignments) that we shouldn’t have missed, and we’ll get that fixed as well.”
Beachler said he would like a rematch with cross-division foe Reeds Spring of the east division.
“I’d like to play them again, they’re in our district,” noted Beachler. “If we clean some things up it will be a (heck) of a ball-game, so hopefully we get the chance to play them again.”
Nevada’s home-opener Aug. 31, as the Tigers welcome in 2017 Class 3 State runner-up Mount Vernon. Kick off is slated for 7 p.m. from Logan Field.
Mount Vernon flattened Monett in its season-opener Friday night, 37-7.