By Joey Sprinkle
Ark City Traveler
No matter how well the defense and special teams play, if a football team cannot score points, it cannot win the game.
There wasn't much positive about the Arkansas City High School football team's offense Friday night at Bulldog Stadium. The result was a 19-0 setback to the Andover Trojans, a loss that dropped the Bulldogs to 0-2 on the season.
The defense played as well — at times better — than last week in a loss at Maize South. The special teams did its job, with punter Bret Grose averaging nearly 38 yards a punt, including a beauty that was downed at the 3 yard line.
The offense simply could not move the football when needed most, especially in the first half.
"I just told the guys we're going to go back to the drawing board and get some things fixed, and find a way to move the ball, especially when we get into the red zone," ACHS coach Braden Smith said. "We were pretty decent between the 30s tonight."
The Bulldogs were held to minus-three yards passing in the woeful half and 81 total yards. Quarterback Josh Gurnee finished 9-of-18 passing for 33 yards, but completed four in a row in one second-half stretch.
"We cleaned up some mistakes and we had some guys play better tonight. The passing game still struggled. Some guys have to step up," Smith said. "If we can just get rolling early, I think we can really go. We're on the verge of running the ball now — we had some success tonight. We just have to be able to get to the edge and throw the ball when we need to."
The defense wasn't perfect. On Andover's second set of downs, senior tailback Steven Young broke into the open for an 80-yard touchdown run with 3:11 left in the first quarter.
The defense knocked Young out of the game by the end of the half and he didn't return. Backup running back Eli Reneoux also was briefly knocked out of the game, but came back and finished with 58 yards on nine carries.
Andover quarterback Cole Gumeringer did most of the damage, finishing with 105 yards and two scores on 12 totes. Gumeringer matched Gurnee with 33 passing yards, but was held to 2-of-10 passing, with one interception.
"They're a great team and a great offense — they've got some big-time playmakers," Smith said. "Outside of the one or two big runs that they had, our defense does a really good job of containing people and taking away their best players. We did a good job again tonight. We'd sure like to get off the field a couple of times on third down, but I cannot fault the defense tonight."
Ark City put together some clock-eating drives in the first half, but came up empty-handed. The Bulldogs marched into Andover territory several times, but turned over the ball on downs once at the 28-yard line and again on the 20.
The Bulldogs had one solid drive in the second half that was set up when the Ark City defense held the Trojans to three-and-out after Grose's punt was downed at the 3. However, that drive stalled at the Andover 20, and Missael Velazquez's 37-yard field-goal try sailed wide to the left.
A hushed tone fell over Bulldog Stadium when receiver Hayden Headrick fell to the turf on his neck with 6:36 left in the game.
Headrick went high to corral a pass, but was hit while in mid-air, flipping backwards onto the back of his neck. He remained down for several tense moments, but left the field under his own power.
"I think it was more on the back of his head and shoulders. It definitely didn't look good," Smith said. "I think he's OK — I think he'll be fine next week. I think it kind of knocked the wind out of him and scared him a little bit, but he's OK."
Tailback Mitch Rowe finished with 63 yards on 16 carries, while fullback Tyler Tracy gained 54 yards on 16 totes.
The Bulldogs are home next weekend to face the Center Yellowjackets of Kansas City, Mo. The Yellowjackets, who defeated Ark City 28-0 last season, lost 22-15 to Hogan Prep Charter (Mo.) on Friday.