De Soto quarterback Briar Fischer has been spreading the football around.
Through three games, Fischer has completed passes to eight different receivers. When the Dragons beat Windsor 29-20 on Friday for their first win of the season, Fischer, a senior, was 18-for-30 for 293 yards. This season, he’s completed 49 of 88 (55.6 percent) for 661 yards.
Despite such a strong start, De Soto head coach Chris Johnson won’t let Fischer rest on his laurels.
“We’re always nit-picking Briar,” Johnson said. “We don’t want him to think there’s nothing to work on. He’s no different than anyone else. We’ve based the offense around him and he’s done a good job.”
In a scoreless game against the Owls, who were 2-0 going into Friday, Fischer hooked up with his younger brother, Levi, for a 24-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Brad Hunt tacked on the PAT and the Dragons led 7-0.
Junior running back Dominic Punjani scored on a 4-yard run for De Soto with 2:56 left in the first, but the kick by Hunt failed and De Soto led 13-0 going into the second. Briar Fischer called his own number and plunged in from 1 yard out with six seconds left in the first half, the two-point pass attempt was incomplete and De Soto had a seemingly comfortable 19-0 lead.
“We had been running and mixing in the pass,” Johnson said. “It was a play-action that had their defense moving the wrong way and Levi got his first TD of the year.”
In the previous three meetings, the Dragons had outscored the Owls a combined 123-14. But Windsor is a different team this year with junior QB Derek Williams starting to master head coach Alex DeMatteis’s triple option offense. Williams punctured the De Soto defense for a pair of rushing TDs in the third quarter to close the gap to 19-13.
Williams completed 12 passes for 168 yards and rushed for a season-low 53 yards. He gained more than 200 yards on the ground in wins against St. Pius X and Seckman.
“The plays he makes are difficult to stop because you can’t script for them,” Johnson said. “A lot of his yardage came off undesigned type plays. He’s hard to tackle and he makes plays.
“We never felt like we weren’t moving the ball at will. If we could have put a couple of drives in the third quarter in the end zone, we could have won more comfortably.”
Senior Jacob Kerbler capped a drive with a 1-yard TD run with 7:04 left in the game to give the Dragons a two-score lead again. But less than a minute later, Williams found Connor Begeman for a 38-yard scoring strike and after Williams ran in the two-point conversion, the game was separated by six points.
Hunt capped the game’s scoring with a 16-yard field goal with 3:19 to play and gave De Soto that crucial two-possession lead again.
“We moved inside the 5-yard line and had a couple of cracks at it,” Johnson said about his team’s drive that led to the field goal. “We used our jumbo set and we fumbled on one play. Sure, I would have loved to have stuffed it in there. But we were only up by six points. If we make the field goal, we’re up by two possessions and there’s no way they come back. It was a logical decision.”
Levi Fischer, senior Kameren Brooks and junior Ethan Reissing each had an interception for De Soto and the Dragons held the Owls to fewer than 100 yards rushing.
“(Windsor) had to break out of their option and went to a spread formation and our guys responded well,” Johnson said. “Our defense has been playing well all season and we’ve been getting the turnovers we didn’t get last year.”
De Soto has allowed 100 points to North County in losses to the Raiders the last two seasons. The Dragons host their Mississippi Area Football Conference Red Division rivals on Friday. After scoring 20 points in its first two games – both losses – North County scored 40 against Festus last week but still lost 56-40.
“They put 40 points on Festus so that gives me reason to be cautious,” Johnson said. “The talent they’ve had the last few years is why they have been so good. They are similar to us where they have new faces out there. The cupboard’s not bare there. It’s going to be a game of who can get the extra possessions. We’re going to have a great week of game planning to win two games in a row here.”
Tigers win wild shootout
It’s a statistical oddity that can only be explained by the diverse talents of two senior running backs.
Fullback Jack Robinson and wing back Jaden Rystrom both rushed for 228 yards as Festus held off North County 56-40 in Bonne Terre on Friday in a MAFC Red game. The only difference was Robinson needed 12 more carries.
It’s the kind of explosive running game that will be the trademark of the Tigers’ season and what gives them a chance to knock off their staunch competition in Class 4 District 1 this fall. A close win at Sullivan the week before made the Festus coaches take another look at their offense.
“We took what happened at Sullivan to heart,” Festus head coach Russ Schmidt said. “As we prepared for North County, we put in some wrinkles so the kids could play faster. We went out and had to have a coming out party.”
It looked like the Tigers’ festivities were going to be spoiled when North County scored on runs of 2 and 86 yards in the first six minutes of the game and led 14-0. Festus tied the game on a 61-yard run by Rystrom and 49-yard jaunt by Robinson. Ryan Esparza kicked both extra points to make it 14-14. The tie was short lived because the Raiders scored on a 72-yard pass 43 seconds after Robinson’s TD.
Robinson and Esparza teamed up to give the Tigers a 21-20 edge seven seconds into the second quarter when Robinson rushed for a 36-yard TD and Esparza booted the point after. The Raiders scored next and led 26-21 with 10 minutes left in the first half. Esparza was 6 for 6 on PATs.
The Festus ground game took over from there and the Tigers started to get some separation when Robinson scored one TD and Rystrom had two to make the score 42-26. Like a masked killer in a horror movie, North County wouldn’t go away on Friday the 13th with a full harvest moon shining down. The Raiders scored in the last two minutes of the third and trailed 42-34.
Festus won by scoring two TDs to North County’s one in the fourth.
Since both teams are in Class 4 District 1, the Tigers needed to win by at least 13 points to enhance their district standing. Schmidt wanted to make sure nobody thought he was trying to run up the score, even though it never seemed like his team’s lead was safe.
“We’re winning by nine points with four minutes left. At this point of the game as a head coach, I don’t want to run up the score, but MSHSAA district rules say we’ve got to win by 13 points,” Schmidt said.
Opening the holes for more than 500 yards of rushing for the Tigers were Nate Carron and Luke Greenstreet, who shared time at left tackle, guards James Wooten and Dominic Nolfo, center Judson Holland, right tackle Lucas Smith and tight ends Jordan Meczkowski and Blake Denier.
“At the end of the game the line got a pat on the back. They struggled the first couple of weeks, but we’ve moved forward,” Schmidt said.
Other county football scores: Principia 42, Crystal City 0; Farmington 48, Hillsboro 0; St. Pius X 35, Grandview 6.