GRAHAM, Mo. — The South Holt-Nodaway-Holt Spartans took on the East Atchison Wolves Friday night. What started as a low-scoring game, turned into an air-and-ground show in the second half.
East Atchison held a 22-8 lead at halftime, then went on to outscore the Spartans 40-20 in the second half, winning 62-28.
The scoring started right away. After a four-and-out for SHNH, the Wolves scored on their very first play from scrimmage when quarterback Jake McEnaney connected with wide receiver Gage McAdams for a 50-yard touchdown.
The Spartans went three-and-out on their next possession but was able to pin East Atchison deep in its own territory. The Wolves had a third-and-12 from their own five, but once again McEnaney connected on another long pass—this time to Garrett Meyer for 47 yards. East Atchison converted on a third-and-eight, putting them at the SHNH 10-yard line.
The Spartan defense found a way to end the drive on the next play, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Reagan Morris. Spartan coach Josh Petersen was happy with the way his defense played in the first half.
“You know the defense played pretty well in the first half,” Petersen said. “We were just flat in the second half and just showed an inability to tackle.”
The Spartan offense was able to get things going on its next possession, moving the ball past midfield. But that drive would stall there after running back Dylan Shuetz dropped a pass on third and long in the endzone. SHNH was forced to punt and trailed just 8-0 after the first quarter.
The Wolves struck quickly after the break when McEnaney connected with McAdams for a 58-yard touchdown. East Atchison coach Aaron Behrens said the plan was to open things up to start the game.
“The plan was to loosen up early with some throws,” Behrens said. “Jake had a really good first half.”
The Spartans tried to respond on the next possession, driving down to the Wolves’ 21-yard line after converting on a fourth-and-one. The drive would once again come to an end when quarterback Andrew Quinlin was intercepted by East Atchison’s Kaylin Merriweather in the endzone.
The Spartan defense again created a turnover with its back against its own endzone on an interception by Taran Clark. The interception ended a streak of eight-straight completions for McEnaney.
SHNH was unable to do anything with the turnover and once again was forced to punt.
The defense appeared to have its opponent stopped as East Atchison found itself with a third and long from its own three yard line. The Spartan defense was unable to capitalize as Briacin Bywater took a shovel pass 77 yards for another Wolves’ touchdown. Plays like that are what leaves Petersen frustrated with his team.
“We’re just not converting when we need to convert,” Petersen said.
The Spartans got things going on their next possession. After converting a fourth and two from their own 24-yard line, they were able to drive down to the East Atchison 21 yard line. The last time they were in that exact spot it ended in an interception, but this time Quinlin was able to find Eric Ottman for a 21-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left in the first half.
SHNH found themselves down 28-8 and still within striking distance of the Wolves early in the third quarter. East Atchison had a fourth-and-10 from near midfield and decided to not punt. A pass from McEnaney was intercepted by Morris who returned it inside East Atchison territory, but the interception was wiped by a roughing-the-passer call, giving the Wolves an automatic first down. The drive would end with one of Bywater’s game-high six touchdowns.
“This is the best I’ve seen him run, his vision was great and you just want to keep giving him the ball,” Behrens said.
The Spartans scored their second touchdown of the game on the next drive when Quinlin found Clark for a 65-yard touchdown. Clark finished the game with nine catches for 126 yards and one touchdown. The junior running back also added 41 yards rushing. Petersen was glad to see Clark back in the lineup after battling injuries through the first three games.
“He didn’t play last week and got banged up against Worth County, but I thought he played pretty well tonight,” Petersen said.
A 20-point deficit was as close as SHNH would get in the second half due in large part to four straight touchdowns from the Wolves’ Bywater. The junior running back finished with 17 carries for 186 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Bywater also added three catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
McEnany finished 11-of-14 for 255 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. McAdams led the Wolves in receiving, catching five passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. East Atchison totaled 272 yards on the ground and 527 total.
Quinlin threw 58 passes in the game, completing 28 of them for 248 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Clark, Morris, and Ottman each finished with nine receptions for the Spartans.
SHNH will travel to Platte Valley next week to take on the Longhorns who are coming off of their first win of the year. The defense will have to try and slow down running back Dalton Luke who rushed for 240 yards in the win. Tackling will be the main focus for the Spartans in practice this week.
“Tackling — tackling, it all comes down to tackling,” Petersen said.