Momentum shift ends Cape Central football's season in quarterfinal at hands of Ladue
For the second consecutive week in a Cape Girardeau Central football playoff game, a turnover in a single-possession game led to a game-changing touchdown just a few plays later.
But this week Central was the victim, not the beneficiary of that sudden sequence of events, as the Tigers fell to Ladue Horton Watkins 31-28 in a Class 4 quarterfinal on Friday in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Four plays after a pass from Central quarterback Kway'Chon Chisom bounced off a receiver's hands and into the grasp of a Ladue defender, Rams quarterback Jordan Jackson blazed down the left sideline for a 79-yard touchdown run.
That score on the last play of the third quarter gave the Rams an 11-point lead, which proved too much for the host Tigers to overcome in the three-point loss.
For the first time since 2012, Central will not play in a state semifinal.
"That's kind of the ball game, you know," Tigers coach Arlen Pixley said. "It's just kind of how it is. We're driving there and just a turnover and just the fact we turn right around and give a touchdown off of it.
"Kind of what we did to Hillsboro last week after we get the turnover and score on the very next play. It was kind of a flip of a switch. These are high school kids, and that's a huge momentum swing."
Ladue, which beat Central 38-25 last year in the regular season, will face the winner of Hannibal and Kearney in the semifinal. Kearney is the defending state champion.
Pixley's first season with the Tigers ends a week after they claimed a fourth straight district title with a 63-24 win at Hillsboro.
This week, Central led 20-14 at halftime after Chisom found a wide-open Matt Nussbaum in the end zone for an 18-yard TD pass with 6.8 seconds remaining. Chisom set up the score with a 71-yard kickoff return after a Rams touchdown with 51.8 ticks left.
The visitors didn't have starting running back Chino Davis for the final two quarters after the senior suffered a left knee injury late in the first half, but it didn't matter. The Rams (12-1) outscored the Tigers 17-0 in the third period and held on for the win.
After a touchdown on the first possession of the half and a 46-yard field goal after a Central fumble, Ladue led 24-20. Central then drove down to the Rams' 13-yard line before that interception on third-and-10 led to Jackson's long score and a 31-20 Ladue lead.
"We got down there by 11, and I guarantee you any other team in that situation would have probably just quit and we didn't," Pixley said. "We're not going to. It's ingrained in them. We kept fighting."
The Tigers (7-6) narrowed the deficit to three on Chisom's 24-yard TD pass to Austin Parker with 5:09 remaining, and the quarterback's ensuing two-point conversion pass to Nussbaum.
The hosts never got the ball back, though, as the Rams ran out the clock with a 13-play drive.
On the fourth play of that drive, Central forced a fumble, but Rams sophomore Dale Chesson recovered the loose ball. Jackson also twice converted on third down.
Jackson finished with 320 yards combined passing and rushing. He was 14 of 19 for 191 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Central forced three turnovers in the first half -- a Trent Leimer interception, a fumble recovered by Chisom on the Tigers' 5-yard line, and a fumble on the final play of the half. But in the last two quarters, the tables turned. Central had two turnovers, and the Rams didn't have one. Combined the teams had six fumbles (three lost). Pixley said the conditions -- turf and windy weather -- made the ball slippery.
Central received the opening kickoff but Ladue struck first on a 55-yard TD pass from Jackson to senior Zach Bush. The wide receiver had two touchdowns Friday. The Tigers responded with a 4-yard TD from Chisom and then a 5-yard scamper by Aaron Harris. After that one-yard plunge from Hunt with less than a minute remaining in the half, Chisom's long kickoff return set the Tigers up at Ladue's 19. Two plays later, he found Nussbaum giving the Tigers a lead at intermission.
The advantage wouldn't last as Ladue made just enough big plays to secure the win, including that momentum-changing sequence late in the third quarter.
"It was a great offensive product versus a very good defense and vice versa out of them," Pixley said. "I thought our defense performed well in spots. We just gave a couple big plays, and you know these games are going to come down to one or two plays and they made them tonight and we were short of making them."
In Chisom's final game, he had 104 yards rushing and a touchdown on 23 carries and added 122 yards and two touchdowns through the air on 7-of-14 passing. The pick was just his fourth interception this season.
Junior Aaron Harris led the team with 115 yards on the ground on 25 attempts.
When Davis went down late in the second period, sophomore Andrew Hunt took his place in the backfield. The backup scored on a 1-yard run late in the half and finished with 70 yards rushing and receiving.
Davis entered Friday as the Rams' leading rusher and tackler.
"Our slogan all year has been 11 strong, and when Chino Davis get down in the first half there -- he's a captain and two-way all-conference player -- the kids really rallied and took that message to heart," Ladue coach Mike Tarpey said. "That's been our motto all year. They're a great program. We've got a lot of respect for them. We've played them the last two years in the regular season, so we knew what we were getting into coming down there. It was kind of a good thing we had to come down here last year."
The Tigers also dealt with an injury problem Friday. Senior Blake Harris, a starting wide receiver and safety, sat out for portions of the second and third quarter after a helmet hit his right knee. He returned in the third quarter and finished with a team-high 37 receiving yards on two receptions.
Blake Harris and Chisom are two of 13 seniors who played their final game for Central.
After finishing the regular season below .500 at 4-5, the Tigers won three games on the road in the district tournament and claimed another trophy.
"Hate to see it really come to the end because of the way those seniors, like I said, they had one foot in the grave and one on the ground, and they not only pulled themselves out of the grave but they filled it full of dirt and mounded it up," Pixley said. "That's a testament to them, and by that they soul-searched at a certain time and point of the season when we challenged them, and they resurrected their season and that's always an awesome thing to be a part of."
L -- Zach Bush 55 pass from Jordan Jackson (P.J. Hensley kick), 8:34
CC -- Kway'Chon Chisom 4 run (kick failed), 2:42
CC -- Aaron Harris 5 run (Christian Mitchell pass from Trent Leimer), 3:38
L -- Andrew Hunt 1 run (Hensley kick), 00:51.8
CC -- Matt Nussbaum 24 pass from Chisom (kick failed), 00:6.8
L -- Bush 12 pass from Jackson (Hensley kick), 10:05
L -- Hensley 46 field goal, 7:29
L -- Jackson 79 run (Hensley kick), 00:00
CC -- Austin Parker 24 pass from Chisom (Nussbaum pass from Chisom), 5:09
RUSHING -- Ladue, Jordan Jackson 14-129, Andrew Hunt 11-39, Chino Davis 4-20, Jarrod Smith 3-19, Zach Bush 1-12, Dale Chesson 1-4; Cape Central, Aaron Harris 25-115, Kway'Chon Chisom 23-104, Joe Baker 6-21, Christian Mitchell 2-6.
PASSING -- Ladue, Jackson 14-19-191-1; Cape Central, Chisom 7-14-122-1.
RECEIVING -- Ladue, Bush 4-71, Tyler Love 3-46, Andrew Hunt 2-31, Evan Mack 2-7, Chesson 1-13, Davis 1-12, Smith 1-11; Cape Central, Blake Harris 2-37, Matt Nussbaum 2-23, Austin Parker 1-24, A. Harris 1-20, Ie'Meon Giles 1-18.
- Photos from the game (11/11/16)