GRANT CITY, Mo. – The No. 1 ranked team in the state, Worth County, hosted North Andrew Friday night in what would be a high-scoring affair.
The Tigers could not be stopped offensively, scoring on every single drive, and the home team was able to top North Andrew by a score of 70-50.
To kick the game off, Worth County received the ball. The opening drive was a dominant display, as they marched down the field in nine plays. To finish off the drive, senior quarterback Aydan Gladstone busted across the goal line from 1-yard out.
After four plays on defense and a punt, the Worth County offense was back on the field for their second drive. The second drive saw more of Gladstone. He showed off a burst of speed on his way to a 57-yard rushing score to give the Tigers a 14-0 advantage with 5:27 still to play in the first quarter.
“Offensively, it is always the same every week, we want to run the ball,” Worth County head coach Jon Adwell said.
North Andrew struggled to find success on its second drive of the ball game, however, a muffed punt from Worth County set the Cardinals up in prime scoring position. On the fourth play of their third drive, freshman quarterback Braxon Linville was able to find a wide open Dawson Eychaner for a 13-yard receiving touchdown.
Worth County seemed to have an answer all night long, as it took the Tigers only five plays to find pay dirt once again. Gladstone, displaying his ability to make any type of throw, found Jackson Runde in the back of the end zone from 24 yards out. Worth County found themselves up 20-6 early in the second quarter.
However, North Andrew seemed to have little trouble offensively too. The Cardinals were just not scoring as fast as their opponent. Following a 49-yard gain from junior running back Hayden Ecker, it was his turn to get into the end zone as he did so from three yards out.
Holding on to a 20-12 lead in the second quarter, Worth County was just getting things started. Gladstone, showing off his arm talent, threw a beautiful pass to junior wideout Dylan McIntyre for a quick 23-yard score. After a successful two-point attempt, the Tigers lead was 28-12 with 9:19 remaining in the second quarter.
“Aydan throws the ball with a lot of confidence, and it looks pretty when he is throwing it,” Adwell said. “He should probably be upset with us coaches that we don’t throw it more often.”
The visiting Cardinals did not back down despite not being able to stop the Tigers. On the ensuing drive, North Andrew was able to cap off a 12-play drive with Ecker 2-yard plunge up the middle. The Cardinals two-point attempt was successful and all of the sudden the visitors were only down 28-20.
Defense did not seem to be much of an issue considering the rate Worth County was scoring at. On the Tigers fifth drive of the night, they were looking to do what they had done in the previous four possessions, score another touchdown. After five plays, Worth County was able to do just that as Gladstone and McIntyre connected for the second time. The Tigers went into halftime with a 34-20 advantage.
“We did everything right, everyone did their best and we got it done,” McIntyre said of the offense’s performance.
North Andrew got the ball to start the second half and the Cardinals made things interesting. In just four plays, Ecker was able to show off his speed as he sped past defenders on his way to a 43-yard rushing touchdown. Just like that, Worth County was clinging onto a 34-26 lead.
Worth County started right where they left off on their first drive of the second half. A Gladstone 34-yard run set up senior running back Alex Rinehart with a 9-yard rushing touchdown.
Now, it was North Andrew’s turn to answer, and the Cardinals certainly did. The team marched down the field in seven plays, and it was finished off when Linville and Eychaner connected for the second time of the night, this time a 32-yard catch and score. After an unsuccessful two point try, Worth County was clinging onto a 10-point lead, as the score was 42-32 with 4:46 left in the third quarter.
Gladstone continued to show off his talent, as it seemed any pass he threw was going to be completed for a long gain. Speaking of which, Gladstone was able to find Rinehart for an 8-yard touchdown to stretch the Tigers lead to 48-32.
As the Tigers kicked the ball off to North Andrew, the ball was fumbled around, and Worth County came out of the pile with the ball. Starting off in great scoring position, Gladstone was able to add another score to his stat sheet, as he found Runde for the second time for a 20-yard catch and score. In a matter of four minutes, Worth County had extended its lead to 56-32 to begin the fourth quarter.
“Well, we knew our offense was going to click so we just had to do what was working and keep attacking,” Gladstone said. “My receivers are amazing so I can just give them the ball and let them do their thing.”
North Andrew was able to answer back with a touchdown, however, the ensuing kickoff is where Worth County put the nail in the coffin. After North Andrew’s kicker saw three of his kicks end up out of bounds, Worth County made him kick another one and it seemed to be the correct decision. Scooping up the ball on the 24-yard line, McIntyre went the distance for a 56-yard kick return touchdown.
“I think they need to fire the defensive coordinator,” Adwell said, referring to himself. “It seemed like every time we had them pinned back, we had a let down here and there. We have got to make sure we control our gaps and I have just got to do a better job of getting the boys ready.”
Defense will be a key factor next week as Worth County will host Stanberry next Friday night in Grant City in what will be a top-5 matchup. The game will decide the Grand River Conference championship.