The first half Friday night between the Boonville Pirates and the Kirksville Tigers had all of the makings of a good old fashion shootout.
While combining for 42 points in just 24 minutes of play, the Pirates were both lucky and good to be out on top by a score of 21-20.
However after a halftime speech by Boonville football coach Devin Brown, the Pirates came out in the second half like a totally different team while holding Kirksville to just one touchdown while hitting paydirt on three different occasions for a 42-26 victory.
Nonetheless, the game still resembled a good old fashion shootout as both teams combined for 68 points, 34 first downs and 730 yards in total offense.
"I told them at halftime that some of them were still on the bus," Brown said. "We were just able to answer the bell a little more in the second half and battle through adversity. But we won so that is a good thing."
The win also enabled the Pirates to reach the .500 mark for the first time this season at 3-3 overall. As far as the NCMC, Boonville has now won back-to-back games since its opening loss against Hannibal. The Pirates, 2-1 in the conference, will host the 0-6 Fulton Hornets this coming Friday night at the BHS Sports Complex starting at 7 p.m.
Of course Friday night's game against the Tigers had a little bit of everything. In addition to the points and lack of defense at times, Boonville also surprised Kirksville by coming out in the wildcat offense for the first time this season. Needless to say, it only took the Pirates five plays to get the ball in the end zone when senior Kelsey Callaway hooked up with Damario Walker on a halfback option pass from the Kirksville 33 with 9:42 left in the first quarter to make it 7-0.
What happened after that is anybodys guess as Kirksville came back with back-to-back touchdowns to lead the Pirates by a score of 14-7. The first score came on 10-play drive from the Tigers own 42, which resulted in a 1-yard run by senior quarterback Mitch Kriegshauser with 5:27 left. Meanwhile, after forcing a three and out by Boonville, the Tigers hit paydirt again after just two plays from the Pirates 28, as a result of a shanked punt, on a 18-yard run by junior running back Blake Riley with 3:12 remaining.
Of course it didn't take the Pirates long to answer. After the ensuing kick off from their own 29, Boonville marched the ball down field and took only three plays to get the score when Callaway took the plunge for his first rushing touchdown of the ball game on a 12-yard run with 2:26 left to pull to within one at 14-13. Then, on what looked like a bad snap to senior Jared Oser on the PAT, the senior quarterback made the most of the opportunity by hitting Gus Kemp in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion to put Boonville on top 15-14.
The Homecoming crowd was not to be disappointed, though. After taking over at their own 39 after the kick off, the Tigers put together another nice drive by moving the ball 61 yards on 11 plays for the score with 10:43 remaining in the half. The 10-yard run by Kriegshauser put Kirksville back on top by a score of 20-15.
The Tigers never led again after that as Boonville came back two possessions later and hit paydirt on a 38-yard run by Callaway with 7:48 left in the half to go up 21-20.
The Pirates put the clamps on Kirksville for the remainder of the half by forcing a punt after just six plays and then recovering a fumble at the Boonville 20.
Boonville senior linebacker Jalen Poindexter said after a talking to by Coach Brown at halftime, the players came out with a little more enthusiasm in the second half.
"We started off slow and needed to come out with a little more momentum and get the ball down field on offense," Poindexter said. "We can't start off slow every game, we need to come out strong and keep going from there. Kirksville had big plays in the first half but in the second we shut them down. We just need to keep working hard in practice and keep progressing as a team from here on out."
Something must have worked at halftime because in the second half the Pirates looked like an entirely different team. Of course it didn't hurt when senior Damario Walker took the opening kick off back 85 yards for the score to make it 28-20.
Walker said he just saw the hole and hit it. "We needed to come out with a good start and that's the best way to do it," Walker said. "Coach wasn't very excited with us at halftime, but in the second half we came out and we knew what we had to do to stop them and that's what we did. We just have to keep moving and progressing and keep doing what we do in practice and keep moving forward."
Of course the second half didn't come without adversity. Despite scoring on three out of seven possessions, the Pirates also had a chance to put the game away early in the fourth quarter after recording a fumble at the Kirksville 35. However after moving the ball to the Tigers 1/2 yard line, Boonville coughed up the ball in the end zone in what many felt was already a touchdown. Instead, Kirksville got the ball back at its own 20.
Brown said it looked like Oser had reached the ball over the goal line. "I have to see it on film to be sure," Brown said. "But I thought the opening kick off return by Damario changed the tide for us. That was huge because we were able to feed off of that for the rest of the game."
The Pirates did just that. Except for a late score by the Tigers, Boonville pretty much dominated the second half with another touchdown by Callaway, this time from 4-yards out, to go up 34-20 with 5:57 left in the fourth. Then, after a 2-yard run by sophomore quarterback Makenna Cook with 3:56 remaining, Boonville came back and hit paydirt again on a 8-yard run by Callaway with 2:10 remaining to closeout the scoring.
For the game, the Pirates had 16 first downs along with 352 yards rushing and 58 passing for a total of 410. Kirksville, meanwhile, had 18 first downs in the game along with 127 yards rushing and 193 passing for a total of 320.
On an individual note, Callaway led all rushers in the game for Boonville with 16 carries for 159 yards and four touchdowns. Jacob Francis has 12 carries for 89 yards while Damario Walker added six for 66, Dakota Meyer three for 36 and Jared Oser six for 6.
Callaway also completed his only pass for a touchdown from 33 yards out while Francis was 1 for 7 for 5 yards and Oser 1 for 2 for 20 yards.
Walker, meanwhile, was on the receiving end on all three passes for 58 yards and one score.
On the defensive side of the ball, Poindexter finished the game with a total of 16 tackles with 10 solo stops and six assisted tackles.
Senior Jay Barnhart had eight solo stops, three assisted tackles, two tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. Tyler Peterson also finished the game with 11 total tackles with six solos, five assisted and one fumble recovery, while Callaway added four solo stops, two assisted tackles, three tackles for losses and one sack, Walker with three solo stops and three assisted tackles, Jordan Bledsoe with two solo stops and four assisted tackles, Brett Kenney with three solo stops and two assisted tackles, Dakota Meyer with two solo stops, two assisted tackles and one fumble recovery, Kyle Cook with two solo stops and two assisted tackles, Tanner Green with two solo stops and one assisted tackle, Gus Kemp with two solo stops and one interception, Andrew Broyhill with two solo stops, Jared Oser with one solo stop, one assisted tackle and one recovered fumble, Jacob Francis and Brenden Meyer each with one solo stop and one assisted tackle and Jordan Weaver with one solo stop.