WARRENSBURG — Three plays changed the course of Warrensburg’s 29-14 loss to Harrisonville in the Class 4 District semifinals on Friday, Nov. 8.
“Our kids battled, they fought until there was zeros on the clock, but we didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” Warrensburg coach Chris Cavanah said. “We made too many mistakes in the game and had opportunities to make some plays that didn’t go our way.”
The Tigers, down 21-14 in the final minutes of the third quarter, needed two yards on fourth down from the Harrisonville six to keep their hopes of tying the game alive. Warrensburg had already lived on the edge, with junior Shelby Pittsenbarger squeezing out nine yards on a fake punt to keep the drive alive.
Warrensburg put the ball in the hands of quarterback Eli Nappe, who already had the Tigers two scores earlier in the game. The junior signal caller was brought down at the line of scrimmage as he tried to bounce the run outside, handing the ball over to Harrisonville with 32 seconds left in the third frame.
“Our kids fought the whole time, it just didn’t fall our way,” Cavanah said.
There was still a glimmer of hope that the turnover on downs wouldn’t cost the Tigers as the Warrensburg defense wrapped up the Wildcats star running back Jace Reynolds for no yards on first downs. A fumble on second down backed up Harrisonville to its own three yard line.
With Harrisonville facing third and 13, Warrensburg brought pressure, but the Wildcats quarterback River Riley backpedaled just far enough to escape the rush of senior Corbin Cowick, getting the ball to Colby Knowles for a 21-yard gain and a first down.
The next play, Reynolds put the nail in the coffin, eluding the Tiger defense for a 76-yard score. Harrisonville converted the two-point conversion with 10:42 left in the contest to set the final score at 29-14.
Warrensburg would see the ball three more times, but would punt on its first series followed by an interception by Nappe with less than three minutes to play in a desperation attempt to get back within a score and run out of time on the final drive of the season in the final minute of play.
The night started heavily in Warrensburgs favor. The Tigers found success on the ground and through the air, driving down to the Harrisonville eight yard line on the opening possession. A fumbled snap turned a third down and one from the eight into a fourth and nine from the 16-yard line, which the Tigers were unable to pick up.
The Tigers defense came through, however, with Chance Volesky bringing down Riley for a sack on third down to set up a blocked punt by Cooper Berry, putting the Warrensburg offense back on the field at the Wildcats six-yard line.
Nappe kept it himself for a six-yard run and a 7-0 lead at the 5:32 mark of the first quarter.
Harrisonville answered with a Reynolds touchdown run, but missed the point after attempt, keeping the Tigers in front 7-6.
The Wildcats took their first lead with Reynolds slipping through the Warrensburg defense on fourth and one for an eight-yard score at the 8:28 mark of the second quarter. The sophomore picked up 20 yards to keep the drive alive by escaping a tackle in the backfield on third and 10 to set up the score.
“There were times where we didn’t have him wrapped up or didn’t finish the play,” Cavanah said. “(Reynolds) is a good back … He was pretty good tonight.”
The Tigers regained the lead with some help from Pittsenbarger, who took the ensuing kickoff out to midfield.
The junior followed up his return with a 19-yard run, the longest of the night for the Tigers, aided by a face mask penalty and offsides penalty to get inside the Wildcat 15.
Nappe capped off the drive with his second touchdown of the night, powering his way in for a two-yard score to put the Tigers back on top 14-13.
Harrisonville regained the lead just before halftime with Riley punching it in to send the Wildcats into the break leading 21-14.
Warrensburg finished the night with 232 yards of offense with Nappe accounting for 157 yards — 74 rushing and 83 passing.
“(Nappe) did nothing but improve from week one to week eleven this year,” Cavanah said.
Pittsenbarger was the Tigers top receiver, hauling in two catches for 36 yards to go along with 39 rushing yards.
The Tigers finish the year at 7-4, securing a winning record in back-to-back seasons.
“I am proud of our guys,” Cavanah said. “We came into this year with high expectations and battled the injury bug all year. We had some hard luck when it came to injuries, but we’ve won sixteen games in two years, won a district championship, played eleven games again this year and I am proud of our kids and our program.”