MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Oct. 14–21)
SIX RIVERS FOOTBALL: Highland 32, Potosi/Cassville 27
HIGHLAND — Never before in his 22 years of coaching high school football has Potosi/Cassville coach Mark Siegert had a team accumulate close to 500 yards of total offense and lose.
That was the case last Friday night when his co-op squad visited Highland, and despite racking up 459 yards of total offense, wound up on the short end of a 32–27 final when Justin Miller’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Michek with 32 seconds left lifted the host Cardinals to victory.
Siegert’s Chieftains fell to 2–1 on the season, while Highland improved to 3–0 in league play and 4–0 overall to overtake the league’s top spot.
“It was just one of those games,” said coach Siegert. “We had close to 500 yards of offense and lost. I looked at all of our past games, and we’ve never had that many yards and lost.
“But, we lost four fumbles and two interceptions, but the one interception was at the end of the game with 34 seconds left and we threw into double coverage. I can’t blame him for that.”
If not for turnovers and timely lapses in coverage, both on defense and on special teams, Potosi/Cassville looked poised to roll over the host Cardinals early in Friday night’s contest.
On their first two offensive possessions, coach Siegert’s squad got a 30-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Levi Groom, and a 41-yard TD run from senior running back Tucker Leibfried to take a commanding 13-0 lead.
On their third offensive possession, it looked as if the Chieftains were going to add to their lead, as they marched the ball inside the Cardinal’s 20-yard line.
On a first-down run, Potosi/Cassville lost their first of four fumbles, this one being recovered by the Cardinals at the 12-yard line.
“I think that would have changed a lot of the game, but instead they get the ball and on a short little slant, we missed two tackles and they went 80 yards,” Siegert explained. “That’s like a 14-point swing right there.”
The Cardinals took full advantage of the game’s first takeaway, pulling to within 13-6 on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Justin Miller to Drew Nankey early in the second quarter.
The score remained 13-6 at the half, though the turnover bug bit the Chieftains yet again late in the second quarter.
With 18 seconds to play in the half and the Chieftain offense sitting at first-and-10 from Highland’s 17-yard line and two timeouts at their disposal, the ball was coughed up yet again and recovered by the Cardinals, who ran out the remaining seconds to end the threat.
The Cardinals then opened the second half with a 43-yard touchdown run from Cal Dorota to pull within 13-12.
From that point on the two teams traded touchdowns, as Potosi/Cassville took a 20-12 lead on a 1-yard TD run from Leibfried and an extra-point kick from Roman Friederick, only to see Highland pull back to within 20-18 on a 24-yard TD pass from Miller to Maximus Oleson.
Highland then took their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard TD run by Dorota, who also scored on the two-point conversion attempt.
Trailing for the first time in the contest, coach Siegert’s squad put together one last scoring drive to take a 27-26 lead with three minutes to play in the game. Scoring on a two-yard TD run was junior speedster Ashton Spitzack, while Friederick added the extra-point kick.
Highland wasn’t done yet though, as Owyn Halverson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Potosi/Cassville 38-yard line, setting the Cardinals up for one last scoring attempt.
“That was big,” said coach Siegert of the kick return. “If they had to march 70 or 80 yards, or even 60 yards, maybe it’s a different deal.”
Despite the big kick return, the Potosi/Cassville defense was determined to keep Highland out of the end zone, but on third-and-nine, was whistled for hitting a defenseless receiver, which put the ball half the distance to the goal and gave the Cardinals another fresh set of downs.
Two plays later, Miller found Michek on a 10-yard TD pass to put Highland up, 32-27 with just 34 seconds remaining on the clock.
While the Chieftains finished the game with 459 yards of total offense on 62 plays, the Cardinals managed 382 total yards of offense on 54 total plays.
The biggest difference came down to six turnovers for the Chieftains, compared to just one for the Cardinals.
“To their credit, they made some plays when they had to, and we didn’t,” said Siegert.
While Highland did most of their damage through the air on 16-of-31 passing attempts for 244 yards and three TDs, Potosi/Cassville dominated on the ground with 365 yards and four TDs on 51 rushing attempts for an average of 7.2 yards per attempt.
Spitzack had a sensational game and finished with 223 yards and one TD on 31 carries, while Leibfried added 63 yards and two TDs on 12 carries. Groom chipped in 59 yard rushing and one TD on just six attempts.
“He had a great night,” coach Siegert said of Spitzack. “He was like a water bug out there. He can stop on a dime and he’s a talented kid.”
“We had a back run for over 200 yards, and you don’t typically see those kind of numbers in a loss,” Siegert added.
Through the air, Groom completed 5-of-11 passing attempts for 94 yards and two interceptions, connecting with Spitzack on two passes for 46 yards, with Robby Roe on two passes for 38 yards, and with Cody Klein on one pass for 11 yards.
Defensively, junior linebacker Connor McKillip led the team with nine total tackles, while Leibfried and Klein each had eight and Spitzack six.
This Friday night the Chieftains will host Iowa-Grant (0-2, 0-3), but are looking for an opponent to play next week, as Ithaca will be unable to play due to COVID concerns.
Highland 32, Potosi/Cassville 27
(from Friday, Oct. 16 @ Highland)
Potosi/Cassville...13 0 7 7 — 27
Highland..................0 6 12 14 — 32
P/C: Levi Groom 30 run (Roman Friederick kick)
P/C: Tucker Leibfried 41 run (kick failed)
H: Drew Nankey 80 pass from Justin Miller (kick failed)
H: Cal Dorota 43 run (run failed)
P/C: Leibfried 1 run (Friederick kick)
H: Maximus Oleson 24 pass from Miller (pass failed)
H: Dorota 2 run (Dorota run)
P/C: Ashton Spitzack 2 run (Friederick kick)
H: Isaac Michek 10 pass from Miller (run failed)
First downs — P/C 23, H 16. Rushing – P/C 51-365, H 24-138. Passing (comp-att-int, yards) — P/C 5-11-2, 94; H 16-31-1, 244. Fumbles-lost – P/C 6-4, H 0-0. Penalties-yards — P/C 5-45, H 4-30.
Rushing — P/C: Ashton Spitzack 31-223, Tucker Leibfried 12-63, Levi Groom 6-59; H: Owyn Halverson 14-79, Cal Dorota 2-45. Passing — P/C: Levi Groom 5-11-2, 94; H: Justin Miller 16-30-1, 244. Receiving — P/C: Spitzack 2-46, Robby Roe 2-38; H: Drew Nankey 4-112. Tackles — P/C: Tucker Leibfried 11, Ashton Spitzack 10, Connor McKillip 9, Cody Klein 8, Logan Uppena 8, Levi Hampton 8.