On the biggest stage of the season so far for , one team was clearly ready for the spotlight, and one team clearly was not.
As it turned out, with and college scouts and recruiters watching from the sidelines, it was the fourth-ranked Pioneers (5-0) who proved to be ready. Behind a sensational performance in all three phases of the game, Kirkwood turned in a convincing 40-21 win over the fifth-ranked Colts (5-1).
“The kids played hard and we got some breaks,” Kirkwood coach Matt Irvin said. “We’ve got some more work to do, clearly, but I’m pretty pleased with our kids, that’s for sure.”
Indeed he should be, as Kirkwood dominated the action from the opening possession, when it forced a three-and-out. The Pioneers then went 67 yards on six quick plays for a score that gave the Pioneers a lead they would never relinquish.
“Our kids were fired up to play tonight, there’s no doubt,” Irvin said. “This was a big ballgame and it was good to see kids step up to the challenge tonight.”
Quarterback Jordan Bishop and running back Ramon Alton were key figures for Kirkwood throughout the night.
Bishop scored two early touchdowns that helped Kirkwood build a 20-0 halftime lead, and Alton finished with a game-high 103 yards rushing. His 65-yard TD was easily one of the highlight plays of the night.
“We just gave up too many big plays,” Central coach Mark Goldenberg said. “(It’s) disappointing when you have a chance to showcase yourself and you don’t bring your best. But you’ve got to give credit to (Kirkwood). I thought they stood up and hit us in the mouth, and got after us right away.”
By the end of the first half, Kirkwood had outgained Parkway Central 260 yards to just 94.
In the third quarter, Central seemed to find its focus, and even forced a three-and-out on Kirkwood’s first possession.
But the Colts also went three-and-out, then had a bad snap on a punt attempt, which was subsequently blocked and recovered by Kirkwood’s J.J. Jones. He then ran it in for a 3-yard touchdown that gave the Pioneers a 27-0 lead.
“We did a lot of shooting ourselves in the foot,” Goldenberg said. “I thought (Central quarterback) Cole Gorman kind of settled down a little bit and showed what he could do. But it was a little bit too little, too late.”
Gorman finished the night with 270 yards passing, a touchdown run, and a touchdown toss.
But the 6-foot-3 senior also had two interceptions, and was sacked and harassed all night by the Kirkwood defense.
Friday’s matchup was billed as a showdown between two of the area’s top wide receiver prospects in Kirkwood’s Mike McHugh, who’s headed to Northwestern University, and Central’s Brandon Sheperd, who said he’ll decide between the University of Missouri and Oklahoma State University at the end of the season.
On Friday, neither player was much of a factor.
Sheperd did finish with seven catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. But he did most of that damage after Kirkwood had already pushed its lead to 33-7 late in the third quarter.
McHugh only made a brief appearance, with no catches and no yards, after suffering a shoulder injury in the first quarter. He didn’t play a down in any of the final three quarters.
The Pioneers easily proved they are more than a one-man team.
“We had some kids really step up tonight,” Irvin said. “Kendall Day had a pretty quiet season so far, and he responded. Ramon Alton had some great runs. Mike went down early, and Andre Harris had some great catches. I felt really good about our team performance tonight.”
Day was especially big for Kirkwood in the second half.
He had a 78-yard run that set up teammate B.J. Buckner for the 6-yard touchdown that made it 33-7. After Sheperd caught a 35-yard strike for Central that made it 33-14, Day capped a long drive with a 3-yard run that put the final touches on a brilliant win for the Pioneers.
Kirkwood will put its perfect record on the line next week at Muhl-Schemmer Stadium in University City at 4 p.m.
Parkway Central will be back at home next Friday night when it hosts Summit at 7 p.m., which defeated U. City 17-12 on Thursday night.
Score by Quarters
KW: Jordan Bishop 30 yd run (Andrew Phillips kick), 6:20
KW: Ramon Alton 65 yd run (Andrew Phillips kick), 6:02
KW: Jordan Bishop 8 yd run (kick failed), 3:13
KW: J.J. Jones 5 yd blocked punt return (Andrew Phillips kick), 9:12
PC: Cole Gorman 2 yd run (Zack Lazenby kick), 5:24
KW: B.J. Buckner 7 yd run (kick failed), 4:21
PC: Brandon Sheperd 35 yd pass from Cole Gorman (Zack Lazenby kick), 8:51
KW: Kendall Day 2 yd run (Andrew Phillips kick), 5:02
PC: Alan Gasanli 3 yd run (Zack Lazenby kick), 3:17