By Chris Bowie
The Boonville Pirates football team did something that the previous seven Boonville teams couldn’t do Friday night against Oak Grove in the opening round of the Class 3 District 7 playoffs at Gene Reagan field.
Having last won a district playoff game in 2011, the Pirates finally got the monkey off their back by beating the Panthers in a battle of former MRVC teams 47-26.
Boonville, 7-3 overall, will play No. 1 Odessa in the semifinal round of the district playoffs on Friday, Nov. 8 in Odessa starting at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs, 10-0 on the season, throttled eighth-seeded Clinton 76-8.
Boonville Pirates football coach Greg Hough said this was a big game for the goals the team set at the start of the season.
“We hadn’t really beaten anybody and people can say that about Oak Grove having a losing record and not beating somebody, but we beat somebody tonight," Hough said. "We beat a coach that has won multiple state titles at Orrick and one at Oak Grove. They play in a very tough conference. If anybody watched film of Oak Grove, they know we beat somebody and did something.
"Our kids needed that, and I’ll be honest, coach Hough needed that because like I said we have won the games we should win and we haven’t really won those 50/50 games and this was a 50/50 game and a big win for us. It punches our ticket to play probably one of the best teams in the state of Missouri. We took some big risks tonight and we will probably take some big risks next week, too.”
Of course it didn’t look good early on for the Pirates, especially for a quarter and a half as Oak Grove led 19-7.
However it was Boonville that opened up the game with a touchdown on the first drive when senior quarterback Nick Ferrari hit running back Avian Thomas on a 89-yard screen pass with 11:01 left to make it 7-0.
Unfortunately for Boonville, they didn’t see the end zone again until the final play of the half.
Oak Grove also made it look easy early on by capping off a three-play, 70-yard drive for the score on a 16 yard run by senior Clay Griffin.
The Panthers failed on the two point conversion. Meanwhile, after forcing Boonville to punt on its next drive, Oak Grove hit paydirt again on a 18-yard run by Brenden Marsh to extend the lead over Boonville to 12-7 with 6:53 left.
Boonville had a series of self-inflicted wounds after that with a fumble, which led to another punt, an interference on a punt return by Oak Grove and then a bad punt.
The Panthers then put together a 9-play, 69 yard drive for the score on a 3-yard run by Griffin to push the lead to 19-7.
Boonville and Oak Grove pretty much stalled offensively after that until Thomas took it to the house with no time left on the clock on a 92 yard run to cut the lead to 19-13.
Hough said the play by Thomas right before the half was huge.
“To be able to go into halftime with a positive, to build a positive opposed to if we kneel it out, was big,” Hough said. “We had nothing to lose. Honestly, I felt Oak Grove was better than us. They were physical and their run attack made me nervous because that is something we haven’t really done well against. I also thought their defensive line was very good. I knew they would throw us some fits at the offensive line as well and that’s why we had a screen game in and some stuff like that.”
Thomas, who finished the game with 23 carries for 300 yards and three touchdowns, said he knew the Pirates as a whole were faster than Oak Grove. “As soon as I hit the edge I was like just go, just go and stay on the sideline and walk in and I got it done,” Thomas said.
The score by Thomas cut the lead to six at the break but the Pirates also had some more work to do in the second half if they were going to come away with a win.
As it turned out, Boonville was more than up to the task with another score at the 4:53 mark in the third quarter on a 8 yard pass from Ferrari to Charlie Bronakowski in the corner of the end zone to lead for the first time in the game at 20-19.
The Pirates caught a break right after that when sophomore D.J. Wesolak recovered an on-side kick at the Oak Grove 43. Then, on the very next play, Tramell scored his second touchdown of the game on a 43-yard burst down the sideline to extend the lead to 27-19.
Oak Grove failed on a 33-yard field goal on its next drive.
Meanwhile, in the fourth quarter, Tramell scored his second rushing touchdown of the game and his third overall with a 52 yard scamper with 8:32 left in the game to go up 34-19.
Boonville’s defense also stepped up in the second half by giving up just one touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
However after holding the Panthers on fourth down at their own 19 with 8:27 left, Boonville took just three plays to get the ball in the end zone on a 13-yard run by Thomas to extend the lead to 40-19.
Oak Grove came back with its final touchdown of the game on a 54 yard scoring strike from Hunter Jones to Griffin to make it 40-26.
But on the Pirates next possession, Thomas found the end zone again on a 52-yard run with 2:45 remaining to push the lead to 47-26.
Thomas said winning a playoff game was huge.
“We haven’t won a playoff game since 2011 and that is a long time,” Thomas said. “You grow up around the people in Boonville and you see them talk all the time and that was the greatest team Boonville’s had in a long time, so us just coming out here and I had that mentality like I am going to be a dog and we got it done tonight.”
Thomas also credited defensive coordinator Paul Stevens for making big adjustments. “Honestly our defense just stepped up,” Thomas said. “We knew Oak Grove was going to run the ball at us, so we just had to stop it.”
Boonville finished the game with seven first downs along with 399 yards rushing and 127 yards passing for a total of 526. Oak Grove had 10 first downs, 224 yards rushing and 130 passing for a total of 354.
Coleman had eight carries for 103 yards and two scores while Josh Polk added two carries for 9 yards and Spencer Steakley one carry for 2 yards.
Ferrari, meanwhile, completed 6 of 9 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Thomas was on the receiving end on two of those passes for 91 yards and one score. Coleman had two catches for 21 yards while Charlie Bronakowski had one catch for 8 yards and one score and Polk with one catch for 7 yards.
On defense for Boonville, Polk had 15 total tackles and one tackle for loss. Harper Stock finished the game with 11 tackles and one tackle for loss while Lane West added 10 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack, Tramell Coleman and Greyson Mesik each with eight tackles, Peyton Keeran with seven tackles and one tackle for loss, Colby Caton with seven tackles and one interception, D.J. Wesolak five tackles and one fumble recovery, Alan McCarter with three tackles and Nathan Platt and DaWan Lomax each with two tackles.
Griffin led Oak Grove with 20 rushes for 139 yards and two touchdowns while Marsh had seven carries for 72 yards and one score.
Jones completed 11 of 21 passes for 130 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Griffin had four catches for 79 yards and one touchdown to lead the Panthers.
Pirates survive and advance with 47-26 win over Oak Grove
By Chris Bowie