An overthrown pass. A botched fake punt. A fumble in the end zone. An untimely penalty.
All those mistakes add up. And unfortunately for Harrisonville, they added up to end their season.
Jefferson City Helias took advantage of those mistakes to take home a 17-7 victor in the Class 4 semifinal game held Nov. 17 at Harrisonville.
“When you have a close ball game and two opponents are closely matched, competitive-wise, it’s what I told the team before the game,” Harrisonville head coach Chuck Lliteras said, “the team that could stay the most focused would win. They had a couple of plays go their way and we had a couple of plays that didn’t go our way.”
Both teams struggled to get into the red zone in the first quarter and in the second quarter a bad snap on a punt by Harrisonville had the Wildcats falling on the ball on their own 32-yard line. But the Harrisonville defense stepped up, keeping Helias out of the end zone until the Crusaders were fourth down with 20 yards to go. But junior quarterback Wyatt Porter found senior wingback Cole Distler in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown at the 8:57 mark to take a 7-0 lead.
On their next possession, Harrisonville got down to the 15-yard line, but an illegal procedure call took them back to the 20-yard line on the third down. The Wildcats set up for a field goal, but decided to fake it, giving the ball to senior linebacker PJ Patton who tried for a reverse pass, which was intercepted by Helias. The Crusaders kept the 7-0 lead going into halftime.
In the start of the third quarter, Helias got some points on a 40-yard field goal, which barely sailed over the top of the crossbars to lead 10-0.
Harrisonville finally pushed their way down to the 8-yard line and with a first down gave it to junior running back Austin Hopper who carried it into the end zone. But the ball was fumbled and recovered by the Crusaders in the end zone.
The Wildcats saw the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter as junior quarterback Zach Davidson made his way five yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Senior Dakota Field kicked the extra point, making the score 10-7.
Harrisonville forced Helias to punt, getting the ball on the 28-yard line. After getting a first down on the 40-yard line, senior running back Mason Saffels took the ball down the field, but a holding penalty was called on the Wildcats, pushing them back to the 35-yard line. Then Davidson was sacked, twice, and the Wildcats were staring at a fourth down with 16 yards to go.
They lined up, but a penalty was called for illegal procedure, pushing them back even further to the 29-yard line. An overthrown pass to freshman wide receiver Wyatt Schenker in the end zone turned the ball over on downs to Helias.
The Crusaders capitalized on the possession, marching down the field to the 14-yard line. They were going for a field goal attempt on fourth down, but a defensive encroachment call on the Wildcats gave Helias the opportunity to go for a first down. Instead, the Crusaders got a touchdown as Porter carried the ball into the end zone with less than a minute left in the game, effectively ending Harrisonville’s chance at a come back.
The Wildcats graduate 13 seniors from their 11-3 squad.
“We are extremely grateful and gracious for the wins we were able to get,” Lliteras said. “We had a lot of adversity this season...Trying to put kids in with injuries and trying to move this kid to that position so we can be competitive every week was one of our biggest challenges. I thought our kids and coaches responded very well.
“They stuck together and I was particularly pleased with the family atmosphere and with the way the kids played for each other. That was very heartening and I didn’t see any finger pointing. Plus we played a month longer than most any other teams.”