Odessa’s defense protected the goal line just enough to survive Aurora
Odessa beat the Houn’ Dawgs 14-7 on a cold and windy Saturday afternoon at Aurora’s Kelly Field in the semifinal playoffs of Class 3 football.
A 7-yard touchdown run by Aurora quarterback Payton Evans marked the one time in four trips inside the Odessa 30-yard line that Aurora would score. Odessa forced turnovers on downs on two consecutive Aurora possessions to close the win.
“We tried our dead-level best to do it, but just couldn’t get it done. We tried. We gave it everything that we’ve got,” Aurora coach Kale Kilgo said.
Odessa’s defense limited Aurora to 43 rushing yards.
Bulldogs quarterback Ty Wagner was 9-of-16 passing for 76 yards. His Aurora counterpart, Evans, completed 16 of 28 pass attempts for 182 yards. His leading target, Skyler Cahill, caught five passes for 62 yards, while Billy Meredith had five grabs for 54 yards.
Evans put together a string in the second half of 9-of-10 completions. Kilgo noted that the junior appeared nervous in the first half.
“I think (Evans) grew confident that he could make the right reads and make plays. At first I think he had a little bit of nerves,” Kilgo said.
Aurora finishes the season 9-5, having made its first playoff semifinal appearance since 1999. A class of 17 seniors played before a standing-room-only crowd Saturday.
“They’ve really grown on the community, and they made some strides to bring the community back to Aurora football,” Kilgo said.
The season was also Kilgo’s first as the Aurora head coach.
Odessa running back Kobe Hardin didn’t play a down of football until his senior year, but his 115 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries made the difference for Odessa.
“It’s an amazing feeling. We knew we could do it from Day 1, we just had to execute and we did,” Hardin said.
This marks the first time for Odessa to make a semifinal appearance since 1994. Veteran coach Mark Thomas has been to state championship games with other schools and believes Hardin was the right addition to the Bulldogs.
“It seems like every team that I’ve been part of that has made it that far had a player or two that people weren’t counting on when the season started, and they blossom for you. Kobe is that guy this year,” Thomas said.
Odessa (13-1) led 14-0 at halftime.
“I never dreamed that it would be the only 14 points,” Thomas said, in praise of Aurora’s defense.
The Bulldogs meet John Burroughs, 31-18 winners over Blair Oaks, in the opposite semifinal, for the Class 3 state championship Saturday, Nov. 28 at 11 a.m. at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.