ALTAMONT — An overtime shootout with an angel looking down on Altamont left the Labette County Grizzlies with a 26-20 win over the Fort Scott Tigers, keeping the Grizzlies in the driver’s seat for the SEK League crown.
“When you beat Fort Scott, you beat a program that’s historic,” Labette County head coach Sean Price said. “It’s a great win for our program.”
Plenty of storylines collided on Friday night for the Grizzlies. Labette County and Fort Scott has formed into one of the league’s bitter rivalries over the last four years, with both teams splitting the series since 2015.
On the field, Labette County quarterback Austin Jones returned from an injury suffered in the preseason jamboree and made his first start under center. In his debut, Jones had an up-and-down showing with two touchdown passes but four interceptions.
Jones completed 22-of-36 passes for 308 yards.
“He started off really well,” Price said. “He had two tipped balls for interceptions, so that’s not his fault. Being back there the first time, there’s pressure on him. I thought he threw the ball well. He’s a spark plug and our kids love him so much. We had more pep on offense tonight.”
For Jones, his debut comes with points of emphasis for next week’s practices but ultimately was capped up with a victory.
“I learned from three years on JV that it’s not always going to be glamorous,” Jones said. “My teammates picked up me and kept it moving.”
Senior wideout Nathan Smith was Jones’ favorite target, catching five balls for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s one of the best receivers in the state,” Price said. “We just throw the ball up to him. He’s strong, physical and a great blocker. He’s special.”
Trent Brock led the Grizzlies in rushing with 12 attempts for 42 yards and two scores. Brock took a heavy dose of direct snaps in a Wildcat formation in short-yardage scenarios.
TOUCHDOWN LABETTE COUNTYTrent Brock 10-yd run. 2-pt failed.Labette County 26, Fort Scott 201-OT pic.twitter.com/jo2p3DFLZj— Sean Frye (@SeanEFrye) October 5, 2019
“He’s a stud and one of our best players,” Price said. “We’re trying to get a few yards with him every time. He’s a great player at just a junior. He doesn’t say five words a day, he just works hard.”
Defensively, the Grizzlies held Fort Scott to 189 yards of total offense, six first downs and posted a shutout in the second half — the Tigers’ lone score came on a pick-six in the fourth quarter.
“We don’t have the biggest or fastest kids, but they believe in the system,” Price said. “They played hard every down.”
The Grizzlies moved to 3-2 overall on the season, with all three wins coming against league opponents. Labette County’s last SEK League tilt is the regular season finale at home against Chanute, which will likely determine the champion.
“We were picked third in the league and we took offense to that,” Price said. “Now we know we’re not going to finish third. The SEK title is a huge thing for these kids.”
For now, Labette County is prepping for another home game next week against Wellington.
“They’re big, strong and fast,” Price said. “We’ve got to string two-to-three wins in a row. Penalties were a problem tonight, so we’ve got to correct that.”
The Grizzlies also played Friday night with heavy hearts across the sideline. Lisa Sandusky, the mother of players AJ Kohler, John Kohler and manager Haley Thomas, passed away after a long battle with cancer last Sunday.
Those three were among the captains that took the field for a pair of coin tosses on Friday night for Labette County.
“She was watching down on us tonight, I really felt that,” Price said. “I was thinking about it a lot tonight, and so was everybody else playing for that family. We wanted to win the ballgame for her.”
An emotional Sean Price delivers a postgame speech to Labette County after their overtime win over Fort Scott pic.twitter.com/eMTWx4S56B— Sean Frye (@SeanEFrye) October 5, 2019
Labette County 26, Fort Scott 20 (OT)
Labette County: 14 0 6 0 6 — 26
Fort Scott: 0 14 0 6 0 — 20
LC: Austin Jones 27-yd pass to Nathan Smith, 7:15, 6-0
LC: Jones 3-yd pass to Smith, 0:02, 14-0
FS: Brody Bowles 7-yd pass to CJ Horton, 8:29, 14-7
FS: Andrew Reed 35-yd run, 2:56, 14-14
LC: Trent Brock 2-yd run, 1:51, 20-14
FS: Jacob Stinnett interception return, 10:00, 20-20
LC: Brock 10-yd run, 26-20