OREGON, Mo. — Quarterback Drew Quinlin gave credit to the Missouri Western Griffons after South Holt/Nodaway-Holt’s come from behind attempt failed against Southwest Livingston on Friday night. In the end, the Spartans came up just 12 yards short in a 66-62 loss. The Spartans trailed 50-28 early in the second half, but outscored the Wildcats 34-16 over the final 22 minutes of the game.
“Honestly, I hate to say it, but Missouri Western inspired me in the Bearcat game yesterday,” Quinlin said. “Northwest looked like it was rolling in the first half, but Western came out and took the lead on them and I felt like we were going to do the same thing in the second half.”
The Spartans took a different offensive approach Friday night. After a pass-heavy scheme in week one, SHNH ran 10 times on its opening drive against the Wildcats. Gavin Leeper capped off the 10-play, 50-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
The offense may have looked different in week two, but the Spartans’ defense seemed very similar to the defense that allowed 80 points a week ago. Southwest quarterback Mack Anderson carried the ball two times to begin the Wildcat drive for no yardage. It looked like the SHNH defense would force a three-and-out until running back Chase Neptune took the ball 45 yards for a Wildcat touchdown.
The mental errors cost the Spartans more points than any player Southwest put on the field and those mistakes began early in the first quarter. The Wildcats’ onside kick after their first score proved successful giving them the ball near midfield. Neptune and Anderson each carried the ball twice with Anderson’s second carry being an 18-yard touchdown run to give Southwest a 16-7 lead.
“Breakdowns and turnovers again, same old, same old,” Petersen said. “We did some good things, but turnovers kill us, penalties kill us.”
South Holt/Nodaway-Holt’s third drive looked much like it’s first one. Leeper, Quinlin and Houston Coleman combined for 34 yards on the ground. Fullback Laurits Fangel ended the drive with a one-yard touchdown to make the score 16-14.
The Wildcats mishandled the hand off on their very first play of the next drive, giving the Spartans the ball at the Southwest 13-yard line. Quinlin wasted little time in making them pay for the mistake, connecting with Dallas Nowling for a 13-yard touchdown.
The Spartan defense didn’t allow much time for celebration, allowing Anderson to find Neptune open for a 37-yard touchdown. Anderson found a new way to score on the Spartans’ ensuing drive by intercepting Quinlin on fourth and 14, returning the ball 50 yards for a touchdown and a 30-21 lead.
“Mack Anderson is amazing at football,” Quinlin said.
The snowball continued as the SHNH kickoff return unit botched another onside kick, giving the ball right back to the Wildcats. Anderson moved the ball down inside the 15 with a 28-yard run before letting Neptune finish off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run.
The Spartans were in danger of letting the game get out of hand, much like they did last week against Worth County. But Petersen and the offense didn’t panic, they continued their plan to run the ball with Leeper and Quinlin marching the ball down inside the Wildcat 20.
A negative run and two false start penalties meant the Spartans went from third and two, to third and 14. Quinlin and Coleman didn’t allow the drive to stall, connecting for a 16-yard gain and a SHNH first down. Quinlin’s six-yard touchdown run ended the drive and brought the score to 38-28.
“I was pretty pleased with our offense this week and mixing it up with our offense from last week,” Coleman said.
There was a feeling that the Spartans left too much time on the clock for Anderson and the Southwest offense. They did, allowing the Wildcats to score in the end zone just four plays into the drive. Anderson played a hand in four of the team’s six first half touchdowns.
The Spartans appeared to have gotten the break they need with a second fumble by the Wildcats to begin the second half. Unfortunately, a Fangel fumble on the very next play gave the ball right back to Southwest. Anderson burned the defense for a 35-yard touchdown run on third and 10 to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the night at 50-28.
SHNH cut the lead to 16 with a four-play drive capped off by another Quinlin touchdown run. Tristan Steinart’s sack of Anderson and a negative run from Neptune all came on a three-and-out forced by the Spartans’ defense.
South Holt/Nodaway-Holt provided Southwest with another heavy dose of run plays. Four different Spartans carried the ball on the offense’s first four plays of the drive. Leeper finished the drive with his second touchdown of the night, making it a one possession game.
“Our backs and our run game was spot on,” Petersen said. “I have no issues or complaints with how we ran the ball tonight.”
The SHNH defense was different in the second half, allowing just 16 points and helping its offense climb back into the game. The Spartans forcing a turnover on downs gave Quinlin and the offense another chance to cut into the lead and cut they did. The junior quarterback scored from one yard out, narrowing the Wildcats’ lead to just two points.
“The kids played well, they didn’t quit and we came back from three scores to take the lead,” said Petersen.
Southwest went back to the basics on its next drive, giving Anderson and Neptune a bulk of the carries, including an eight-yard run on fourth and four. Senior Dagun Bassett’s score with 10:23 left in the game gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead.
The Spartans turned the ball over on downs on their next drive, giving Southwest the ball at the SHNH 32-yard line. But the defense again made a big play, holding Anderson to two yards on two carries and then an interception by Gannon Phelan on third down gave the ball back to the Spartan offense.
With time running out, the SHNH offense made the switch to the passing offense we’ve grown accustomed to during the last two seasons. Dylan Schuetz had two receptions for over 20 yards and Coleman's fifth catch of the game moved the ball down to the Wildcats’ 20-yard line.
Quinlin mixed in a couple of incompletes and a 10-yard run. Wide receiver Alex Harris made his first and only catch of the game, scoring on third and goal from the 10-yard line.
The Spartans forced another turnover on downs and found themselves with an opportunity to regain the lead. The offense leaned on Quinlin and Coleman on a four-play drive where the two averaged 8.5 yards per carry. Coleman’s three-yard touchdown gave SHNH its first lead since the opening drive of the game.
“I think everyone knew that we still had a chance in the game, there’s two halves in every football game,” Quinlin said. “We knew what they were running, we watched film on them all week, we knew Mack Anderson was their whole team and just needed the second half to stop him.”
A botched kickoff gave Southwest Livingston the ball at the South Holt/Nodaway-Holt 32-yard line. Three plays later, Anderson scored yet another touchdown to give the Wildcats a 66-62 lead with 47 seconds left in the game.
The Spartans still had their timeouts and the ability to move the ball quickly through the air. Leeper began the drive with a short gain after slipping to the ground. Phelan’s second catch of the game was good for 16 yards and still plenty of time for SHNH.
Sophomore wide receiver Xander Parman made his first appearance and catch of the game down at the Wildcats' 12-yard line. Unfortunately, the play ended with a fumble. The Spartans turned the ball over five times.
“We did good, we came back in the second half and punched it through, but in the end we just didn’t get it,” Coleman said.
Coleman carried the ball 11 times for 63 yards to go along with his five receptions for 59 yards Friday night. Quinlin led the team with 18 carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns. The Spartans’ quarterback also passed for 159 yards.
“We did really, really good on offense,” Quinlin said. “We had a few bumps in the road, but in the second half we came out, played strong and the run looked really good.”
The Spartans will have their hands full once again next week as their brutal schedule to begin the season continues with a trip to Tarkio to face East Atchison. The Wolves have outscored their opponents 114-22 in the first two weeks of the season.
“They’re going to be good; they can go power; and they can also spread you out and throw,” Petersen said. “We’re going to have to be on our game, and we have to play four quarters and we haven’t yet.”
South Holt/Nodaway-Holt struggled in its first three contests last season, including a 62-28 loss to East Atchison. The Spartans found a way to rebound after their tough start and hope to do the same this season.
“Our defense compared to last week, dramatically improved,” Quinlin said. “The scoreboard doesn’t really say so, but the second half does and another intense week of a lot of defense and we’ll be good.”