HUTCHINSON — The ground-and-pound game that Hutchinson has made look so fluid during its six-year reign as state champions was present Friday night in the opening game against Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst.
But as Rockhurst proved with its 29-28 victory in overtime, this year will be different for the Salthawks. Hutchinson stayed true to its style, but not nearly as gracefully as it has looked in the past.
“The thing that people lose track of is that they think if you won, you played a good game and if you lost, you played a poor game,” Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling said. “If we would have won this game, we would feel a lot better, but we still played the same game.”
Three missed extra points and three stalled drives in Rockhurst territory highlighted Hutchinson’s shortcomings. Allowing Rockhurst’s Noah Pearl to rush for 182 yards and three touchdowns was another.
Pearl was the most effective player in the game and two of his touchdown runs gave Rockhurst double-digit leads of 16-3 and 22-10 in the third quarter.
“Noah was a different guy tonight,” Rockhurst coach Tony Severino said. “He grew up tonight. He had something to prove. He was really determined to show what he could do.”
For Hutchinson, it was a resounding message that success might not come as easy as it has in the past.
On the opening kickoff, Hutchinson forced a fumble and Ja’mon Cotton recovered. Instead of the expected momentum-swinging touchdown, the Salthawks turned the ball over on downs five plays later.
“We have a lot of young kids and it was their first competitive varsity football game,” Hutch’s Ben Heeney said. “We made a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of plays we should have made.”
Hutchinson’s offense has been built around breaking long runs, but Rockhurst was able to contain the rushing attack. The Salthawks finished with 201 rushing yards on 58 carries.
“That’s what we wanted to do,” Severino said. “We made them throw the ball to beat us.”
Hutchinson scored on consecutive drives midway through the second half on short runs, but failed to convert on both extra-point attempts to leave the game tied at 22. Overtime was needed after Rockhurst’s Griffin Bins pushed a 33-yard field-goal attempt wide with 47 seconds remaining.
Hutchinson scored the extra period’s first points on a touchdown plunge from Heeney, his third score of the night, and Dreiling elected to try for the extra point. Travis Hirt’s kick was blocked, leaving Dreiling second-guessing himself after the game.
“Obviously that was a mistake on my part,” Dreiling said. “I should have gone for two.”
Three plays later, Rockhurst quarterback Frank Arbanas scored from one yard and Bins redeemed himself with the game-winning point.
“It really does hurt,” Hutchinson defensive tackle Dameitrik Morris said. “But winners prove themselves after they get beat and show what they got. This is going to make us work harder and harder.”
Hutchinson will have to if it is to extend its six-year title run.
“I can promise you by the end of the season we will be twice the football team we were tonight,” Dreiling said.
KC (Mo.) Rockhurst (2-0) 2 7 13 0 7 — 29
Hutchinson (0-1) 0 3 7 12 6 — 28
H—Hirt 29 FG
R—Pearl 16 run (Bins kick)
R—Pearl 25 run (Bins kick)
H—Heeney 1 run (Hirt kick)
R—Pearl 3 run (pass failed)
H—Heeney 3 run (kick failed)
H—Turner 1 run (run failed)
H—Heeney 1 run (kick blocked)
R—Arbanas 1 run (Bins kick)
Rushing—Rockhurst, Pearl 23-182, Walker 2-8, Brancato 1-1, Veatch 1-1, Karlin 1-0, Arbanas 8-(-13); Hutchinson, Heeney 28-100, Cotton 7-51, Stuckey 11-29, Turner 12-21.
Passing—Rockhurst, Arbanas 11-16-0-83; Hutchinson, 3-7-0-97.
Receiving—Rockhurst, Tapko 5-52, Hannifan 2-17, Herring 1-8, Bales 1-7, Karlin 1-5, Brancato 1-(-6); Hutchinson, Roehn 1-50, Cotton 1-30, Stuckey 1-17.