ALTAMONT — Coming off an emotional high after beating Fort Scott in overtime, the hangover for the Labette County Grizzlies hit on homecoming Friday night as the Grizzlies fell to previously winless Wellington 21-0 in Week 6.
Labette County, now 3-3 overall on the season, went into the game with a hitch in its routine as head coach Sean Price coached the game from the press box as part of a self-imposed suspension for detrimental conduct.
“We all worked together as a coaching staff and were communicating the entire time,” Price said. “But I’m used to being down there and so are the kids. It didn’t affect our effort, we just didn’t get the job done.”
Wellington’s defense threw an endless barrage of wrenches into the Grizzlies’ offense. The Crusaders put constant pressure on Labette County quarterback Austin Jones while also blanketing star receiver Nathan Smith, who was limited to two catches.
“They knew who Nathan Smith was, obviously,” Price said. “They had a guy right on him and a safety over the top. He’s the best receiver we’ve got, and they smothered him. They didn’t hardly pay attention to our other receivers.”
Price added that the relentless pursuit on Jones took its toll.
“We couldn’t get into our three-step drop game,” Price said. “When you’re one-step dropping, your offense is going to be limited.”
As for the Crusaders, running back Trace Rusk provided a spark to the Wellington sideline as he accounted for one touchdown and 120 rushing yards. After the game, Price said the coaching staff hadn’t seen Rusk on film at all — Wellington returned several guys from injury this week.
“We hadn’t seen him on film all year,” Price said. “We didn’t know who he was. They have a lot of running backs. We warned our guys about being disciplined in our gaps.”
On the flipside, an unofficial count showed Labette County limited to minus-19 rushing yards as a team.
“We just couldn’t run the ball,” Price said. “Wellington was bigger and more physical than we were. That’s the bottom line. We couldn’t get the blocks. We had one outside run that worked. Other than that, it was two steps forward and three steps back. All year, that’s been an issue for us.”
With two games left in the regular season, Labette County now finds itself behind the eight ball in its pursuit of a top-eight seed in the 4A East standings and a home playoff game.
The Grizzlies make a lengthy road trip next week to Ulysses. Price confirmed that he would be back on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.
“I feel like our backs have been against the wall all year,” Price said. “Nobody thought we’d be any good and we’ve battled. Next week, we’ll drive seven hours and give Ulysses the best game we can.”
Wellington 21, Labette County 0
Labette County: 0 0 0 0 — 0
Wellington: 0 13 0 8 — 21
WE: Berkely Wright 5-yd pass to Silas Popplewell, 11:54, 7-0
WE: Zane Cornejo 60-yd run, 6:38, 13-0
WE: Trace Rusk 11-yd run, 5:30, 21-0