SARCOXIE, Mo. — Special teams was the key to a third quarter explosion of points by the Sarcoxie Bears that allowed them to beat Diamond 42-14 on Friday night.
Holding a 20-14 lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Bears forced the Wildcats to punt on their first possession of the second half. That was the last time the Diamond offense would take the field for the next eight minutes.
Sarcoxie drove eight plays and scored on 52-yard run by Terio Asterio, then converted the two-point conversion to make the score 28-14 Sarcoxie with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
The Bears’ Blake Heckmaster was able to recover the surprise onside kick, and the Bears kept the ball for a seven-play, 49-yard drive, culminating in a 24-yard touchdown run by Asterio and another two-point conversion and a 36-14 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
On this kickoff, the Bears pooch kicked it and Justin Mandera recovered the ball on Diamond’s 32-yard line.
This time it took Sarcoxie only four plays to score, with Clayton Jackson carrying the ball in from four yards out for the 42-14 advantage.
“We gave them too many extra possessions,” said Diamond coach Mac Whitehead. “We gave them two in the first half and then they got back-to-back onside kicks. That’s four, there’s 28 points right there and we just couldn’t recover. We’re still learning how to play the game and we’re still kind of young. We can’t make those mistakes.”
Sarcoxie junior Asterio led all rushers with 118 yards and three touchdowns on eight runs, while senior Mandera ran the ball nine times for 50 yards. Sophomore Quarterback Jaron Malotte ran 11 times for 87 yards and a touchdown.
“Terio Asterio had some really big runs,” said Sarcoxie coach Russell Ellis. “He’s a stud; he’s really electric. Justin Mandera, he’s a great football player. He’s one of our captains, a senior. Great kid and did a good job of commanding our team. In the locker room he got them fired up and ready to go. I was really happy for him.”
Diamond thought it had struck first with a huge pass interception for an 87-yard touchdown, but the long run was called back because of a holding penalty.
Diamond kept the ball, however, and marched down the field on a 13-play, 66-yard drive to score on a one-yard run by Hunter Shallenberger.
“This was Hunter’s first game to play all four quarters at quarterback,” Whitehead said. “We’ve been trying to figure out ways to get him the ball the first couple of weeks or the first five or six weeks. We’d put him at wide receiver or running back and we got tired of trying to find ways to get him the ball. So we were just going to snap it to him. He’s a dynamic player. You saw tonight he’s different from everyone else.”
Sarcoxie took control at that point, scoring three times in the second quarter.
A seven-play, 73-yard drive was capped by a 17-yard touchdown run by junior Drake Acheson to make the score 7-6 Diamond.
Sarcoxie recovered a Diamond fumble to score on a two-play, 25-yard drive, capped by Asterio’s first touchdown run of 11 yards to go up 12-7.
Diamond fumbled the ball again and Sarcoxie needed five plays to go 56 yards, capped by Malotte’s 10-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion succeeded and Sarcoxie held a 20-7 lead.
Diamond got new life on the very last play of the half. Sarcoxie quarterback Malotte threw the ball over the middle with 5 seconds left, but Shallenberger stepped in front of the receiver and returned the interception 73 yards for the score to make it 20-14 at the break.
“Hats off to Diamond, they had a good game plan,” Ellis said. “They came in the first half and got after us. When you turn the ball over that many times for us in the first half, you’re just giving a team a chance and hats off to them. They did a great job.”