By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD — The 3-2 Glendale Falcons arrived at JFK Stadium Thursday evening for Parkview’s homecoming averaging 36 points per game.
The Falcons displayed the versatile, aggressive offense once again — soaring to the 52-8 final against the 1-4 Parkview Vikings.
Senior signal-caller Gavin Watts was the author of six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) and 387 passing yards, and the defense — highlighted by the two interceptions by senior Marquise Shaw (returned for a touchdown) and junior Travin Mathis — came into the Ozark Conference tilt wanting to make a statement.
While the high-flying spread attack of head coach Mike Mauk’s offense traditionally make headlines, on this night, it was a balancing act for the offensive and defensive units.
“Our defense always works really hard, and we make sure to watch a lot of film,” Mathis said, whose interception began at the line of scrimmage, where two Falcons defenders were in the backfield. “It is just alignment, just being in the right place at the right time.”
The Falcon defense was thrown for a loop just one week ago, when the Lebanon running attack served as the tone-setters in the 40-20 final.
But on this night, Mathis and his defense wanted to make a statement against a team that came into the tilt averaging 17 points per game, and a combined 20 points in the Vikings’ three previous games.
“As a defense, it feels great [to leave with eight points allowed].” Mathis said of the Vikings. “So, coming out here and being able to shut them down and execute and do our job, it feels good.”
A win is a win, but outlasting the opposition on their field on their homecoming sweetens the pot just a bit.
Said Mathis: “There is a lot of emotion in it. It feels good to be able to shut down someone like that — a team full of athletes.”
Shutting down Vikings dual-threat quarterback Caden Burks is no easy task, and staying true to gap assignments and keeping Burks in front of the defense was vital.
“It was very important,” Mathis said.
Down 30-0 midway through the second quarter, Watts’ interception sparked a brief reaction from the relatively quiet Parkview sideline when Shane Glass came up with the pick.
The Vikings orchestrated a five-play drive early in the second quarter for their lone score, when Burks showed off the arm on the 31-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Green for their lone score.
There has been a long line of successful quarterbacks in Mauk’s system — and Watts is just another testament to Mauk’s air-raid offensive attack.
Being a senior quarterback, the intensity is ratcheted up a bit.
“It is a lot of fun,” said Watts, who threw scores of seven, 54, 60, five, and three yards. “It is a lot of pressure, but we have great coaching and they all have run this offense. I trust in them and they trust in me and we put in a lot of work. It really comes to show.”
For opposing defenses, what do you take away?
The perimeter? The slips screens? The crossing routes?
For Watts, the versatility is what he appreciates the most.
“Yeah, we know it’s tough. We know that if we play our game, it is pretty hard to defend our offense,” Watts said. “We go to a lot of 7-on7’s together in the offseason, and we do pretty well at those, so we know we can play with the best when we are on our game.”
Other than the one pass he’d like to have back, Watts was on point, displaying his escapability in the pocket and guiding and leading his receivers with the ball in space.
For Watts and his receivers, timing and precision passing are crucial.
“We put in a lot of work over the summer, getting down that timing. Me and the receivers will go out and throw on our own, throwing routes and having fun with it,” Watts said. “We have a good connection.”
Watts said the loss to Lebanon and Rolla (32-24) will galvanize the group even more as the calendar rolls over to October.
Added Watts: “We made a lot of mistakes. We thought we could have been in that ball game (Lebanon). We didn’t play well enough on offense. We really learned from our mistakes, and it showed tonight.”
For the Falcons, Ben Shoemaker (three receiving touchdowns) and Chris Floyd (two receiving touchdowns) found the end zone.