REEDS SPRING – There’s no hiding the bread-and-butter of the Reeds Spring High School football team’s offensive attack.
The Wolves’ flex-bone offense features at least three runners capable of putting up big numbers on the ground, often almost daring opposing defenses to stop the run.
That’s what made Friday night’s performance all the more encouraging for Wolves coach Lance Gosch.
Quarterback Sean Gross put on a big-time passing game display, completing 6-of-7 passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-14 victory over Hollister.
“You have to be able to do other things,” Gosch said. “We were able to do that tonight, and we need to keep progressing the offense, adding a little wrinkle here and there, and keeping people honest.”
The Wolves’ rushing game came in with three of the top five rushers in the area, with Colton Cramblett, J.T. Bayliff and Gross combining for 1,319 yards and a per-carry average of more than 7 yards.
Reeds Spring finished with 289 yards on the ground in the victory over the Tigers, but it was the passing game that featured the biggest plays.
First came an 18-yard TD pass from Gross to Al Chavez, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone, capping the Wolves’ second possession with the game’s first score.
Gross hit Matt Allison with a 25-yard scoring pass midway through the second quarter, on a one-play scoring drive set up by a Nate Cerny interception and long return into Hollister territory.
A third TD pass of the half went from Gross to Chavez, who stretched the ball over the goal line to make it a 27-0 game with 1:25 to play.
“I thought the offense did a lot of nice things,” Gosch said. “They were kind of packed in and Sean did a nice job getting the ball on the edge and throwing, and our receivers made some really nice catches.
“Coach (Jared) Anderson did a great job calling the offense and keeping them spread out. It was a good night.”
Reeds Spring’s other first-half score came on a highlight-reel run by J.T. Bayliff, who appeared to be bottled up in the backfield before he reversed field, ran around the left side and went 53 yards for a score.
Gross added the Wolves’ lone second-half score, on a 3-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter, making it a 35-14 score.
It’s all about building for the final stretch run of the regular season and moving into district play.
“Everybody in the locker room is happy and ready to go, we’re all hyped and excited about getting to practice,” Gross said. “We’re not just thinking about tonight, we’re ready to keep moving forward.
“We’re always saying we have something to prove. We’ve always had our doubters, all season, and we’re all looking to prove them wrong.”
Reeds Spring finished with 405 yards of total offense, while holding Hollister to 199 total yards and forcing two turnovers. The turnovers – interceptions by Cerny and Adam Lewis – each led to Wolves’ touchdowns.
Reeds Spring (4-2) won for the second week in a row, following up a victory at Springfield Catholic with the home win over Hollister. The Wolves will be on the road for the next two weeks, for games at Marshfield and Cassville, before closing the regular season at home against Aurora.
“I think our kids are getting better, but the thing is, we keep playing better teams,” Gosch said. “Our kids keep working, and that’s all we can ask for. We’re getting a little bit better, and we’ll come back in on Monday and see what we can work on and do against Marshfield.”
Hollister enjoyed a strong start, recovering a Reeds Spring fumble on the game’s first possession, then moving the ball inside the Reeds Spring 20-yard line.
On a fourth-and-4 play from the 18, the Tigers tried a halfback pass after a pitch to Kelby Gard. Gard had a receiver wide open in the end zone, but a blitzer hit Gard as he released the ball, resulting in an incomplete pass.
“Had a guy open, but it didn’t work out,” Hollister coach Rich Adkins said. “We’ve just got to start making some plays. We missed some opportunities, but they stuck it to us. Their run game, they get after you pretty good. It’s hard to stop.”
The rest of Hollister’s first-half possessions ended in three punts, then two interceptions, and the end of the half, as Reeds Spring took control.
“They’re a real physical team, and it’s tough to hang sometimes, when they get that lead and get going,” Adkins said. “We made too many mistakes there, and there was a little spurt there, where everything went wrong there for a few minutes.
“They’re too good to do that against.”
Hollister struck for two touchdowns in the second half to cut the deficit to 27-14. First came an 18-play, 89-yard drive that was aided by a pair of Reeds Spring personal foul penalties.
It ended on a 6-yard run by Cody Johnson.
Konner Hatfield had a nice return on a punt on the ensuing Reeds Spring possession, giving the Tigers the ball on the Wolves’ 23-yard line.
Gard ran in from 23 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the next drive, getting the Tigers within two scores and 11:33 to play.
“They eat the clock so well, we almost needed another quick three-and-out or a quick turnover, to really have an opportunity,” Adkins said. “We just have to keep getting better, we have to play better.”
The loss was the second in a row for the Tigers, who fell to 2-4 and have two of their final three regular-season games at home – Friday against Aurora and a Week 9 date against undefeated Mt. Vernon, sandwiched around a trip to Logan-Rogersville.