By Jeff Kessinger (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It was a twice-in-a-lifetime play for Nick Quadrini and he knew just what to do.
With Waynesville still on the sidelines and the play clock running, the junior kicker squibbed the ball down the Pottenger Stadium turf for his teammates to recover. The sort-of onside kick in the second quarter led to back-to-back scores that sparked Kickapoo to a 38-18 win over Waynesville Friday night.
“His sophomore year he had that exact same thing happen against West Plains,” Kickapoo coach Nate Thomas said. “We were telling him, ‘Quad, kick it!’ and he just boomed it into the end zone. That was awesome for him to be able to get that one recovered like he did.”
Quadrini started the rally himself, booting a 30-yard field goal to even things at 10 with 6:22 to play before the half. Then things got weird for a minute.
Waynesville was not on the field when the referee blew the whistle for the ensuing kickoff. KHS easily recovered the kick at the Waynesville 32 and struck again just three plays later when the Waynesville defense chomped down on a play-action fake. Adam Miller coolly lobbed the ball over the middle to a wide-open Zaide Lowery for a 30-yard touchdown and a 17-10 Kickapoo lead.
“We’ve got guys that keep stepping into roles and stepping up,” Thomas said. “We’ve got guys ready to play.”
It was all Kickapoo from there. The home team imposed its will at the line of scrimmage and kept pounding the rock. KHS tacked on rushing touchdowns by Chandler Taylor (9 yards), Chance Nelson (10 yards) and Ward (15 yards) to put the game out of reach and improve to 3-0 on the season.
Kickapoo rushed for more than 300 yards in the game. Nelson finished with 97, Taylor with 95. And they did it with just a handful of negative plays. Miller rushed for 44 yards and threw for 85 more.
“We’re getting better and better every week,” senior lineman Logan Whitley said. “We’re well connected. We need to work on communication, but we have really good chemistry. We work really hard together and we have good effort up front.”
The Kickapoo running backs appreciate it.
“I don’t think I’ve seen an offensive line this good since 2016,” Taylor said. “We’ve been looking forward to this since our freshman year. We’ve been talking about how good they were going to be and they’ve delivered. It’s awesome. It’s beautiful.”
Waynesville got on the board first, marching down the field on its first possession and getting a 27-yard field goal from Chase Evans. The Tigers recovered a popped-up kickoff, but fumbled the ball away on the Kickapoo 10.
KHS took full advantage. Miller marched his offense 90 yards in six plays, taking it 17 yards up the middle for a 7-3 lead. Waynesville answered early in the second quarter with a long drive of its own. Quarterback Mike Lewis’ 1-yard sneak capped a 14 play, 80-yard march and pushed the Tigers back in front, 10-7. It was Waynesville’s last lead of the night.
Mike Richardson carried the ball 12 times for 113 yards and a touchdown to lead the Waynesville offense. Lewis finished with 151 yards passing.
The Tigers have been dealing with adversity since before the season started. They lost practice time and their Week 1 game to COVID. They’ve dealt with injuries, too, at key positions. But they keep fighting. Coach Joe Haynes said his team still needs to cut down on mistakes and stop being their second opponent on the field.
“We can be on fire, but then we can’t keep the blaze going. Kind of like cheap charcoal at the grocery store,” Haynes said. “We’re on fire, then we cool off. Then we get hot and then cool off again. We’ve got to find our consistency. When we eliminate our own mistakes we can compete for four quarters evenly…. This season is long and everyone knows it. We’re doing everything we can to tune up for districts and keeping our eyes on the big prize.”
Waynesville visits Lebanon Sept. 18. Kickapoo, meanwhile, heads north to Parkview with its eyes on a 4-0 start.
“The confidence we have when we walk out here is very high,” Taylor said. “I think people have forgotten what Kickapoo football is all about and I think this is the year we remind them.”
WHS 3 7 0 8 — 18
KHS 7 10 14 7 — 38
6:11 — Waynesville: Chase Evans 27 field goal, 3-0
2:59 — Kickapoo: Adam Miller 12 run (Nick Quadrini kick), 7-3
10:20 — Waynesville: Mike Lews 1 run (Evans kick), 10-7
6:22 — Kickapoo: Quadrini 20 field goal, 10-10
4:40 — Kickapoo: Zaide Lowery 30 pass from Miller (Quadrini kick), 17-10
5:34 — Kickapoo: Chandler Taylor 9 run (Quadrini kick), 24-10
1:06 — Kikcapoo: Chance Nelson 10 run (Quadrini kick), 31-10
5:13 — Kickapoo: Kevin Ward 15 run (Quadrini kick), 38-10
3:13 — Waynesville: Eric Richardson 2 run (Richardson run), 38-18