Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt knew he saw something in DeSmet’s game film.
It was — hardly noticeable to the untrained eye. He had a hard time finding anything other than this minor flaw in the undefeated Spartans’ squad.
The area of concern: DeSmet’s punt team.
The result: 16 points for the Kewpies and the difference in the game.
“We thought their punt team was their weakest area,” Nesbitt said. “We wanted to expose it and expose it early.”
The Kewpies couldn’t have executed the game plan much better.
Two blocked punts in the Spartans’ end zone by Hickman’s Aaron Cawlfield in the first quarter resulted in a safety and a touchdown, while a muffed snap by DeSmet’s punter late in the second quarter led to another Kewpie touchdown.
“All week we were practicing really hard on punt block,” lineman Luke Harper said. “We knew that was going to be a game changer.”
Cawlfield, who recorded his sixth and seventh blocked punts of the year, hardly knew how to react when he came free through the line of scrimmage on DeSmet’s second failed punt attempt.
“If you’re going let me go one time, at least block me the second time,” Cawlfield said. “I think I was more surprised than excited. I almost think (blocking a punt) is as good as scoring a touchdown.”
Those 16 points were just what the Kewpies needed to secure a 44-33 win and advance to the semifinal round of the class 6 state playoffs.
WHAT’S NEXT:The Kewpies (9-1) will travel to Rockhurst (9-1) for the semifinals and a rematch between the two top ranked teams in Class 6 on Friday night at 7.
The Hawklets won 14-7 at Hickman in the second game of the season for each.
“Everybody knows who we play next week, and everybody knows that they beat us before,” Cawlfield said. “We’ll get our minds straight, and we’ll be ready to play.”
Rockhurst is coming off a 28-0 shutout Friday against formerly second-ranked Blue Springs, avenging a loss 29-9 loss to the Wildcats earlier this season.
REACTION:Hickman had to battle until the final seconds for the first time in several weeks.
The Kewpies’ secondary was tested throughout the game, but especially in the second half. Corwin orchestrated a pass-heavy comeback that exploited Hickman’s defense for 180 yards in the air and three touchdowns.
“Sometimes when you haven’t been in a real fight for a while, and you haven’t seen the sight of your own blood, you never know how you’re going to react,” Nesbitt said. “I thought we panicked a little bit.”
Nesbitt said he was pleased, though, with his team’s resiliency when the momentum shifted over to the Spartans’ sideline.
“Even though the defensive coaches don’t feel very well, I thought we had enough stops and made enough plays,” Nesbitt said. “They made life miserable for (Corwin), as well. I think a lesser team would have lost tonight.”
The Kewpies’ offensive line eventually wore down a front four that kept DeSmet in the game, setting up big plays that quieted the Spartans’ comeback.