NORTH KANSAS CITY — Having played the No. 1 team in the state of Missouri in Blue Springs last week, the Hickman Kewpies rationalized this week’s opponent, No. 4 Oak Park, couldn’t be as difficult. Unfortunately for the Kewpies, they were wrong.
Carried by running back Michael Keenan, the Northmen defeated the Kewpies 37-17 on Friday at District Stadium.
Keenan rushed for 229 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns. In the first half, Keenan carried 16 times for 202 yards.
The Kewpies (2-2) had problems running down Keenan, a 6-foot-2, 224-pound running back, and struggled with solo tackles on him.
“He’s a big, tough, strong hard-running kid,” Kewpies linebacker Kyle Nuelle said. “He’s a quick guy but there was multiple times when we could have stopped him.”
On the Northmen’s second drive, Keenan took his team to the end zone in one play. Keenan, who has orally committed to Nebraska to play linebacker, was barely touched on an 80-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7.
Keenan was only getting started with his big plays. The next came on a fourth-and-1 to open the second quarter. The Kewpies lined up expecting the run and yet were unable to get a hand on Keenan as he rushed 73 yards for the touchdown.
“The big plays kill us,” Nuelle said. “It puts a lot of pressure on our offense. Our defense has carried our team; we need to stand strong. So it just kills momentum and gives them a big swing.”
Although Keenan dominated, he was not the only running back who had a big game.
Kewpies running back Brandon Kendrick rushed for a season-high 117 yards on 17 carries. Kendrick, who had been splitting time with Brandon Ferling, established himself as Hickman’s feature back.
“He actually did that last week,” Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said. “Our offensive line had pretty good run blocking for him, and I thought Brandon ran hard and had very good vision.”
Kendrick supplied the Kewpies with their touchdowns. The first came with 7:15 left in the first quarter to take the lead. Kendrick ran off left tackle and out ran the Northmen defenders to the corner of the end zone.
“I give a lot of credit to my offensive line because I’m just glad we got to establish the run game,” Kendrick said. “The run just felt good. My O-line was blocking and I hit the hole hard for them. I just wanted to give them a present.”
Kendrick’s second touchdown came with 22 secondsleft in the third quarter to pull the Kewpies within 30-17, but the Northmen answered with a running touchdown. Oak Park (4-0) finished with 391 yards rushing and 65 passing.
Northmen quarterback Matt Turner threw seven times with four completions, but he made a bigger impact playing safety. Turner intercepted Hickman quarterback Blake Tekotte twice, leading to two Oak Park touchdowns.
Tekotte had 208 yards on 16-for-29 passing and two interceptions.
Although the Kewpies’ offense was perhaps the most balanced it has been this year, it failed to generate results. Nesbitt said he believes turnovers are responsible for his offense’s failure.
“It demoralizes you,” Nesbitt said. “Especially when you’ve got a well-executed drive.’’
Twice in a row we let them right back into the ball game or let the take the lead in the ball game. It’s very frustrating.”