Things were looking so good for the Lee’s Summit North football team Sept. 20 against Winnetonka. Josh Caldwell and the Broncos’ running game was marching up and down the field with ease. The defense was keeping the Griffins offense in check. And they had a two-touchdown lead by halftime.
Now if only they could have only held onto the ball.
But the Broncos couldn’t, so instead of coasting to an easy victory, Lee’s Summit North wound up collapsing to a 38-34 loss on its home field.
Lee’s Summit North, 2-2, finished with five turnovers, including a crippling one after a bizarre back-to-back muffed punt sequence. All the miscues and untimely mistakes helped Winnetonka, 3-1, rally back from a 21-7 deficit.
“I don’t care what level you play at: When you turn the ball over, your chances of winning are pretty slim,” Lee’s Summit North coach Ty Kohl said. “We had (five) turnovers tonight and that was the difference in the game.”
Lee’s Summit North coughed up three fumbles in the first half yet still managed to hold a 21-10 lead at halftime. The Broncos were still up 28-16 midway through the third quarter when they forced Winnetonka to punt from its 25-yard line. Caldwell tried to field the kick at the Bronco 40, but the ball slipped through his hands and into the arms of Winnetonka’s Mingus Craddock.
Turnover? Nope. The referees huddled and decided one of them had blown an inadvertent whistle. Winnetonka had to kick the ball again. The second punt bounced off of Caldwell and into the arms of Winnetonka’s Tanashis Purifoy at midfield.
Six plays later, Winnetonka quarterback Devon Smith threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to James Gillock, and the Griffins were suddenly within 28-23.
“It was completely my fault,” Caldwell said. “I’m not going to make excuses. I made two turnovers there and I didn’t help my team win.”
It certainly put a damper on what otherwise was a stellar game for Caldwell. The Broncos senior running back finished with 274 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. He scored both of his touchdowns and had 240 of his yards by halftime.
“We wanted to put our best football player out there to make plays, and he made a (heck) of a lot of plays tonight,” Kohl said. “Unfortunately, some of the things didn’t bounce his way either.”
That wasn’t the case in the first half. Caldwell put LSN on the scoreboard first when he broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game.
Winnetonka tied the game on its next possession, but Caldwell put the Broncos back up 14-7 with a 27-yard run early in the second quarter. When Mychal Shaw capped an 11-play 70-yard drive with a 4-yard up-the-middle TD run with 1:54 to play in the half, the Broncos appeared to be in control.
Then the miscues took their toll. Winnetonka stalled on its next possession after the double-punt, but a roughing the kicker call on the Broncos gave the Griffins new life again. Three plays later, Winnetonka took the lead for good on Marquise Doherty’s 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter, his second TD of the game.
“We knew they were going to come back. They’ve done that all season,” LSN quarterback Matt Brumfield said. “But we shot ourselves so much in the foot we couldn’t rebound from it.”
When Winnetonka’s Chase Williams broke loose for a 65-yard TD run and a 38-28 lead with 4:59 left, LSN’s fate appeared sealed. The Broncos did pull back within four on Brumfield’s 3-yard TD pass to Jordan Smith, but the score came with 14 seconds left.
As tough as the loss was, Kohl will need his team to bounce back quickly this week. Awaiting them on Friday night is a trip to Lee’s Summit West.
“We can’t mope for long,” Kohl said. “We’ve got to rally the troops and get ready for a very tough Lee’s Summit West team.”