The Webster Groves High School Statesmen entered unfamiliar territory while the Kirkwood High School Pioneers found themselves in their usual predicament early in the 111th annual Turkey Day Game on Nov. 22 at Moss Field.
Webster Groves led 14-7 through the first quarter – the first time the Statesmen have led in a football game this season. In fact, the Statesmen held two leads for a total of two minutes and 14 seconds.
But the lead was short lived. Kirkwood went on to a record-setting performance and routed Webster Groves 75-34 to capture its sixth straight victory over the Statesmen for the first time in the series.
Kirkwood’s 75-point total is the most scored in school history, but one point shy of tying the single-point output in the series. That record stands from 1917, when Webster Groves blanked Kirkwood 76-0.
Two blocked extra points from Statesmen sophomore Sam Streib prevented the Pioneers from breaking the mark. The final block with 2:45 remaining in regulation left the Pioneers one-point shy of tying the 1917 record.
The combined 109 points scored in this year’s Turkey Day game is a new series record. Webster Groves leads the series with a 54-49-7 record.
“We were kind of taking it easy,” Kirkwood senior quarterback/wide receiver/defensive back Cooper Wise said. “After the first quarter, we turned it on. It kind of shocked us.”
Injury-plagued Webster Groves, though, finished winless this season for the first time in school history.
“I told my kids you never want to go 0-10, but I cared more about how we played and how we represented ourselves from a discipline standpoint and a character standpoint,” Webster Groves High Coach Cliff Ice said.
Ice abandoned the spread offense in favor of a formation he picked up from Kirkwood High Coach Farrell Shelton, who sometimes ran the “unbalanced power-I” offense while coaching at Eureka. Ice said he decided to change the formation for this game because of player injuries and the lack of the right personnel to run the spread offense.
Ice lined up three players, from left to right, junior Donell Robinson, junior lineman Cole Schnettgoeke and Streib, a wide receiver, in a row like a full-house backfield. The quarterback stood behind them in the shotgun formation.
Kameron Yancey and Jerqon Conners, a pair of junior running backs turned quarterbacks, took advantage of the new formation. Yancey gained 199 yards on 26 attempts and scored two touchdowns on runs of 71 and seven yards.
Conners ran for 177 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns of 25 and 66 yards. He also threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to a wide open junior tight end Noah Arinze. Senior placekicker Joe Nash converted four of five extra points.
“It worked for a while,” Ice said. “We were able to control the clock.”
Kirkwood Coach Shelton said Webster Groves ran the “unbalanced power-I” offense play quite well.
“They kept us off balance,” Shelton said. “We didn’t know what they were going to do.”
Kirkwood (8-4) rebounded from the slow start in a big way, especially from senior quarterback Cooper Wise in his final game for the Pioneers. Wise completed 10 of 12 passes for 229 yards and five touchdowns, scored on a one-yard plunge, caught two passes for 27 yards as a wide receiver and recorded one interception as a defensive back.
Wise completed 151 of 254 passes for 2,323 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions for the season. In 2018, Kirkwood totaled 5,084 yards (2,559 passing, 2,525 rushing).
“We expected to score a lot, but I don’t think that much,” Wise said.
Kirkwood senior wide receiver Maurice Massey, a transfer from Francis Howell North, caught two touchdown passes from Wise for 35 and 25 yards. He also returned a kick off for an 84-yard touchdown. Massey and senior defensive end Arvell Ferguson Jr. will take their talents to the University of Missouri next fall.
Pioneer junior wide receiver Jairus Maclin had a 29-yard touchdown reception from Wise. Senior wide receiver Brock Sandbothe turned a short pass over the middle from Wise into a 72-yard touchdown and senior running back Martez Jones II and Wise collaborated for a 40-yard touchdown pass.
Jones also finished his career with 122 yards on 13 attempts and a 16-yard touchdown run. For the season, Jones gained 1,321 yards on 189 rushes and scored 15 touchdowns to tie with Massey.
Kirkwood’s defense returned three fumble recoveries for touchdowns from senior defensive back Stefan Cameron (20 yards), defensive back Maclin (12 yards) and junior defensive back Myson Pace (26 yards), a transfer from Webster Groves.
“I knew their offense was explosive, but I didn’t think we’d give up 75,” Ice said, adding he thinks his squad can have a memorable season in 2019, provided more players come out and the veterans stay healthy.
“If we get healthy and have guys come out to give us a little more depth on our football team, we’d have one of the better turnarounds in state history,” Ice said.