Eagle Gridiron Season Ends At Sectional Round
By David Sharp
Third ranked Marceline (12-0) scored on their first four possessions during November 9, 2009 Class 1 Sectional football play and handed Knox County a 55-28 defeat. The loss ended the third best football campaign in Knox County R-I school history.
The teams traded touchdowns on their first possessions. Knox County trailed 7-6 when a muffed Marceline punt resulted in the Tigers gaining possession on the Eagle 31 yard line.
Knox County racked up over 300 yards in offense from scrimmage. Keenan Gillaspy scored twice and rushed for 163 yards. The second team all Tri-Rivers Conference quarterback went 4-11 for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Leighton McCabe was on the receiving end of all four aerials. McCabe earned second team all conference honors along with Cameron Kirmse at running back and linebacker Ben Harder.
The Eagles shifted momentum their way when and exchange of punts gave Knox County the football on their 29 yard line with 2:10 to play in the first half.
Keenan Gillaspy raced 71 yards to the house, answering a pair of Matthew Bell touchdowns. Bell took a short pass, broke a tackle and traveled 66 yards putting Marceline up 28-6 with 2:20 showing on the second quarter clock.
Leighton McCabe intercepted Austin Bruner’s pass on the Eagle six yard line, halting a possible 70 yard scoring drive with 48 seconds to play in the half. Marceline led 28-14 at intermission.
“Defense has been our forte all year,” said Marceline coach Shane Cavanah. “Our offense has gotten better throughout the season. We have played defense since game one, even though we gave up 22 points on the varsity level tonight. I have a lot of good things to say about (Keenan Gillaspy.) We knew what he was going to do. We still just couldn’t stop him.”
The home standing Tigers drove the football into the teeth of Knox County’s defense. Marceline won a hard fought battle along the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers rushed 42 times for 304 yards. Matthew Bell was 12-92 on the ground with three rushing touchdowns and another in the air. Austin Bruner was 3-8 passing for 105 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Marceline out gained the Eagles 409-320 overall.
Marceline set effective blitz packages, sacking Knox County quarterbacks a season high five times. The Tigers had the football most of the first half.
Knox County countered Marceline’s 55 yard touchdown drive in the first quarter with a 66 yard scoring march. Matthew Bell scored the first TD of the contest on a four yard run at the 7:17 mark of period one. Bell’s kick gave Marceline a seven point edge.
Keenan Gillaspy raced 17 yards with 2:55 showing on the first quarter clock. The two point conversion failed, leaving Marceline up by a point. Knox County stopped the next Tiger drive, forcing a Jordan Tibbs punt.
The football bounced off the Eagle return man, setting up the home team on Knox County’s 31 yard line. Randal Rosenbaum cashed in the short field with a one yard plunge at the 10:53 mark of period two. Matthew Bell’s kick made the score 14-6 Tigers.
Marceline snuffed out the subsequent Knox County drive. The Tiger defensive effort gave their offense possession in good field position on the Tiger 44 yard line.
Mathew Bell capped the 56 yard drive with an eight yard run at the 6:15 point of period two for a 21-6 edge. Knox County could not move the ball and were forced to punt. First team all conference punter Keenan Gillaspy sent the football 40 yards.
Marceline continued to win the battle of field position, gaining possession on their 40 yard line. The Eagles played well defensively, forcing the Tigers into a third and long situation.
Matthew Bell converted an outlet pass into a 68 yard touchdown strike. Bell kicked the point after touchdown for a 28-6 lead. The Eagles competed, turning a potentially game over situation into a spirit lifting series of positive plays.
“I was pretty proud of the fact that we scored 28 points on that defense,” said Steve Ramer. We thought if we could get 28 (points) we might be one possession away from winning it.”
“We made a couple of mistakes, and they jumped on us for them,” said Eagle head football coach Steve Ramer. “We couldn’t make any mistakes. We gave them a short field in a couple of situations.”
“We loaded the box with everything we had, and they still ran the ball at us pretty good. They have good running backs and a good offensive line. The turnovers and a couple of missed assignments on punts was probably the 21 or 28 points they were looking for.”
Keenan Gillaspy brought a good gathering of Knox County fans to their feet with a stunning 71 yard touchdown dash, countering the previous 60 yard drive in one fell swoop. Damon Hemmerling ran in the two point conversion, trimming the Tiger margin to 28-14 with 1:59 remaining until intermission.
Leighton McCabe’s second interception of the season helped keep momentum wearing white into the dressing room. The Tiger defense turned the game around, stopping the Eagles on downs on their 46 yard line with 9:20 remaining in period three.
Matthew Bell raced 24 yards for a touchdown with 7:39 to play in the quarter. Bell kicked the PAT for a 35-14 lead. Things started sliding downhill further for the Eagles when Jeff Floray recovered a fumble on the Eagle 32 yard line.
Knox County’s defense rose and stopped Marceline on downs at their 23 yard line. First team all conference lineman David Hinkle recorded a four yard tackle for a loss on third down. Hinkle finished with 110 total tackles and a school record 16 quarterback sacks.
A 20 yard punt set up another short field. The Tigers took over on the Knox County 43 yard line with 3:14 to play in the third quarter.
Austin Bruner found Jordan Tibbs for a 43 yard touchdown pass. The kick failed and Marceline held a 41-14 advantage with 3:07 showing on the third quarter clock.
Marceline broke through the Eagle punt protection scheme, setting up a short field on the KC 22. Knox County’s defense held again.
Far from giving up, the Eagles mounted an impressive 70 yard scoring drive late in the third quarter.
Leighton McCabe hauled in a 25 yard pass from Keenan Gillaspy with 8:28 to play in the game. The two point conversion failed, leaving the Tigers up 41-20.
Marceline sprint champion Kyle Bixenman got loose for a 49 yard scoring dash with 7:38 in the fourth quarter. Bixenman was in the 100m dash finals of the 2009 state track meet.
The Tigers took advantage of their lead, rushing Knox County passers with a vengeance. Nico Bayte scored a short field touchdown, capping a 32 yard drive with a 22 yard run with 5:26 to play in the game.
Luke Hustead kicked the extra point for a 55-20 lead. Knox County mounted one more scoring drive. The Eagles took the ball from their 32 and scored when second team all conference running back Cameron Kirmse raced 33 yards for the final Knox County touchdown of their season with 32 ticks on the clock.
Marceline ran out the final seconds, securing their trip to Wellington-Napoleon for the Class 1 quarterfinal round.
Knox County seniors Tristan Lonberger, Dylan Morgret, Keenan Gillaspy, Keanan Kite, Andy Greenley, Cody Pegg, Brian Schrage, Travis Hamlin, Jason Ingalls, Ben Harder, Christian Deem, David Hinkle and Cameron Kirmse played the final football game of their high school careers.
Knox County’s Class of 2010 became the only class in Knox County R-I history to make the football playoffs for two consecutive seasons. “We knew we had to play mistake free football. We did the best we could to do that. They capitalized on the mistakes we made,” commented Coach Ramer. “That’s what a good ball club does.”
The teams finished even at 11 first downs each. Keenan Gillaspy rushed for a game high 163 yards on 18 carries with two scores. Cameron Kirmse rushed ten times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Andy Greenley was 8-21 rushing. Damon Hemmerling went 4-10 while Brady Morton was 4-17 on the ground.
Tristan Lonberger passed twice with no completions. Knox County was flagged three times for 15 yards. Marceline was penalized twice for 15 yards.
Andy Greenley led Knox County (7-5) with 12 tackles. Keanan Kite had eight KC tackles. Greenley led the Eagles for the second straight year, recording 114 total tackles.
Offensive lineman Travis Hamlin, defensive lineman David Hinkle, linebacker Andy Greenley, place kicker Cameron Kirmse and punter Keenan Gillaspy made the 2009 Tri-Rivers All Conference First Team.
“We raised the expectations here at Knox County,” said Ramer. “We told the seniors after the game that we knew it hurts a lot because we were just a few things from going on another step.”
“This group accounts for 50% of the playoff berths in Knox County school history. We won the third district football championship in school history, and the first one since 1995. They did a lot that hasn’t been done here for a very long time.”
“Everyone of our seniors contributed in some way,’ said Ramer. “We lose a great group of seniors. We have to use them as an example to our younger kids of what work it takes to get to the top.”
“You saw Leighton McCabe catch a touchdown pass and intercept another against some of the stiffest competition in the state. Brady Morton did a great job. We return the left side of our line. They were able to play, and play well in that kind of atmosphere.”
“We have got some big holes to fill. We have time to get in the weight room and build up to the guy they are trying to replace,” said Steve Ramer of the Eagle’s future prospects.
“If the kids will step up and put the work in, they will be successful. There is no secret to success. It’s been mapped out for years. Hard work equals success.”