O’FALLON — Smith-Cotton turned in a season finale that reflected the best and worst moments of a one-win campaign.
“There was a lot to forget,” said Smith-Cotton football head coach Charlie McFail.
The Tigers conceded 42 points to Ft. Zumwalt North in the first quarter of a 63-14 loss Friday at Robert L. Fisher Football Stadium in a Class 5, District 4 semifinal.
Panthers senior Izaiah Hartrup logged the first two score with a 30-yard rush on the third play from scrimmage. He and senior quarterback Cairo Payne set up the score with a 42-yard reception to start the contest.
All season, McFail cited a lack of experience among a host of first-year starters as a factor dogging both sides of the ball — and Ft. Zumwalt North punished S-C’s mistakes with authority.
“We never got them caught up to speed,” McFail said.
One play after S-C senior Brett Grupe fell short on a 4th-down try, Payne housed 40-yard keeper to make it 14-0. Hartrup returned the next Tigers punt 50 yards for a score, Payne scrambled for a 43-yarder and FZM senior Jalen Owens recovered a fumble on a strip sack at the 6:49 mark in Q1.
Panther junior Chris Futrell capped a six-score period with a 42-yard rush. Hartrup advanced a screen pass 58 yards for his third TD and, after a near pick-6 from junior Max Martin positioned FZM at the Smith-Cotton 6, senior Tim Nesslage secured a short TD reception to give the home team a 56-point advantage at halftime.
Losing the snap on a punt attempt in the end zone, Smith-Cotton trailed 63-0 as the Panthers fell on the loose ball.
S-C lost its first seven games en route to a district semifinals matchup with the top-ranked Class 5 team in the Missouri Media Rankings, a status FZN has maintained since the preseason poll. The Tigers (1-9) were beaten by at least 27 points in eight of nine losses. It is the first 1-9 season for Smith-Cotton since 1993.
Despite the miserable payoff in 2019, McFail said the Tigers are mere pieces away from relevance.
“It’s a lot closer than what people think. It’s a lot closer than what the kids think,” McFail said. “They don’t realize, it’s just one or two different things can make a huge difference in the outcome.”
S-C’s defense produced two takeaways. Tigers sophomore Kole Scott stripped the ball on a sack and Sedalia recovered a fumble with one minute remaining in the third quarter to start its first scoring drive.
Smith-Cotton senior Cameron FInley on an 11-yard TD rush and lit up the sideline for a 67-yard score in the closing minutes.
McFail said the outgoing seniors, who shared their tearful goodbyes postgame, produced a respectable body of work in four years.
“There’s a lot of good kids who put in a lot of hard work,” McFail said. “It’s hard, but they need to be proud of what they’ve done.”
The Panthers (10-0) are scheduled to host Battle (7-3) next week in St. Charles County.
Alex Agueros can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @abagueros2.