SMITH CENTER — Smith Center was opportunistic on both sides of the ball when it mattered in Friday night’s Mid-Continent League clash with Plainville.
The top-ranked Redmen forced four turnovers and broke off a few huge plays on the ground en route to a convincing 40-14 win over No. 2 Plainville at Smith Center.
Despite playing without standout senior running back/linebacker Jared Casey — who was out with a broken hand he suffered last week against TMP-Marian — the Cardinals managed to move the ball against a stout Redmen defense. But Plainville was plagued by the turnovers — three fumbles and an interception.
“People that say they’re a two-man team haven’t watched them play,” Smith Center coach Darren Sasse said of the Cardinals, who are led by Casey and quarterback Jordan Finessy. “They’ve got athletes all over the field. We knew that they could throw and catch. I don’t know if we really figured out (how to stop it) that much, we just got a couple breaks.”
Plainville tied the game up at 7 with 3:49 left in the second quarter but Smith Center went on to score 33 points unanswered, moving to 4-0 on the season while Plainville dropped to 3-1.
The Redmen led 14-7 at halftime and churned out a touchdown drive capped off by a 1-yard run from Jaden Atwood on their first possession of the third quarter. The back-breaker for the Cardinals was a 62-yard scoop-and-score from senior defensive back/quarterback Trenton Colby that put the Redmen up 28-7 midway through the third.
“I looked up and it was just green grass,” Colby said. “It was just wide open. The scoop and score, that was a big, big momentum changer.”
“That’s just guys running to the ball and trying to make plays and tackles, and that stuff happens,” Sasse said of Smith Center's forced turnovers. “We were fortunate to get some of those tonight.”
Three of Smith Center's touchdowns were on running plays of 58 yards or longer. Colby put Smith Center on the board with a 76-yard run early in the second quarter and Colton Shoemaker answered a Plainville touchdown with a 58-yard TD run with 3:32 left before halftime.
The Redmen pulled away after a 1-yard TD run from Nate Hendrich late in the third and an 80-yard score from Atwood in the fourth.
Sasse said Colby's experience at quarterback is paying dividends for the back-to-back state champion Redmen.
“We kind of go as he goes and the offensive line goes,” Sasse said of Colby. “It’s great to have a second-year starter (at quarterback).”
Freshman Kyle Werner scored Plainville's first touchdown on a 20-yard run and Finnesy had a 1-yard TD plunge in the fourth quarter. Finnesy had several big plays in the passing game throughout the night and kept the Redmen on their heels with his scrambling ability.
“He’s just so good that you just got to try and keep contain, but he just breaks contain so easy,” Sasse said of Finnesy. “Just a tremendous player. I thought we bent, but didn’t break.”
Plainville coach Grant Stephenson said he was pleased with how some of his players stepped up in Casey's absence, but lamented the Cardinals' turnovers. Casey is expected to miss at least a couple more games with the hand injury.
“Overall, I’m not extremely disappointed,” Stephenson said. “I thought we moved the ball well on offense. But we shot ourselves in the foot several times.”
“The guys were a little bit down (after Casey’s injury),” he added. “But Monday we watched (film), talked about the game plan and we honestly had a really good week of practice. The kids rebuilt well. And you saw the freshman Kyle Werner tonight, he did an excellent job.”
Smith Center will play at Oakley next week while Plainville will host Republic County.
“We talk every week that you can’t rest on what you did the previous week; you’ve got to play better the next week,” Sasse said. “Our league’s tough and every week’s tough. We just got to keep getting better.”