football finally met its match in a junior and a senior from Staley. Their combined 285 yards proved too much for the Pioneers in the Class 5 state final game at the Edward Jones Dome.
Kirkwood battled back from two-score deficits in the second and third quarters, but fell in the end 35-21 to the Staley Falcons, from Kansas City. The Pioneers finished with a 12-1 record. Staley finished at a perfect 14-0.
The Staley duo of junior quarterback Trent Hosick and senior running back Morgan Steward ambushed Kirkwood with 53- and 20-yard runs by Steward followed by Hosick’s 2-yard finish. The Falcons were on the board 29 seconds into the game.
While the Staley offense was primarily running – quarterback Hosick had only three completions in six attempts – their defense also effectively stopped Kirkwood senior receiver Mike McHugh, with only three completions for 39 yards.
“Mike had a couple plays where he was just a inch or two making a big play. He did a great job of giving us a shot,” Kirkwood coach Matt Irvin said. “A couple of those catches, a couple more of those would have put us in good shape.”
“It wasn’t the game plan to just give me the ball,” McHugh said. He said it was a team effort by Staley that shut him down.
Kirkwood junior quarterback Jordan Bishop was the Pioneers’ leading rusher with 62, but factoring in sacks, he had a net of 32. Kirkwood averaged 2.7 yards per rushing play. Junior Ramon Alton led Kirkwood in receptions with 89 yards in four catches.
The Pioneers answered Staley’s quick score with a 77-yard drive to tie, but the Falcons came back in the half with runs by Steward and Hosick to go ahead 21-7 at the half.
Kirkwood took the opening kickoff of the third quarter from the 28-yard line to come within a touchdown. Staley came back with a 10-play scoring drive. Kirkwood fought back again to come within a touchdown, with a 64-yard pass play to Alton to make it 28-21 after three.
Attempts in the fourth quarter were plagued with penalties, sacks and bobbled snaps. An incomplete pass to McHugh early in the quarter could have kept them alive, had he been in bounds, but the call was that he was out.
The Falcons ate up more than seven minutes in a drive that again put them up two touchdowns, and left Kirkwood only 2:30 on the clock.
“We always pick a word of the week that describes how we want our team to play,” Staley coach Fred Bouchard said. “This week, we said, let’s finish.” He said that on final drive, they finished.
“I was really proud of our kids coming out in the second half, with a two-score deficit, and we hadn’t been there all year long, and really battled to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter,” Irvin said.
The Pioneers had plenty of support, with red filling almost half of the lower level of the dome.
“Our community has our backs 100 percent. It felt good to have everyone be there, and stay after the game was over and cheer us on,” senior Lucas Sandheinrich said. “No pressure, just a great community.”
“Really proud of our kids for getting there,” Irvin said. “Credit to Staley, they did a lot of great things, and deserved the victory.”