ROSENDALE, Mo. — It was all Steven Willhite in a battle of two of the top teams in Missouri 8-Man football on Friday.
The Pattonsburg senior led the No. 2 Panthers to a 68-62 win over No. 5 North Andrew. He finished the game with 652 all-purpose yards — 492 passing, 160 rushing.
Willhite was responsible for eight touchdowns, rushing four times while finding a receiver on four other occasions.
“There’s something about him,” Pattonsburg coach Scott Cavin said. “He’s a fighter man, that really showed tonight. What a kid. He’s a great kid. He loves the game. It showed tonight.”
North Andrew (2-1) attempted to contain Willhite in the pocket throughout the game. Other than a few stops, the senior quarterback found a way to make plays happen.
Of the explosive moments included a 66-yard touchdown run, and two touchdown passers of almost 35 yards each to senior wide receiver Dakota Eaton.
“They’re such an offensive machine,” North Andrew coach Dwayne Williams said. “We had a plan for defense tonight which wasn’t really a good plan. It was my plan, but it wasn’t a very good one.”
The Cardinals saw similar success offensively with the help of senior quarterback Jaden Baker. He threw for 63 yards, rushed for 162 and had five touchdowns to his name
The difference came down to failed two-point conversions. North Andrew missed five compared to two by Pattonsburg (3-0).
The Panthers chose to kick an onside kick after their first failure, coming late in the first quarter.
“Some of that is you missed a block here or there,” Williams said. “Then they got one on their own side. They onside kick every time and they got one of them. We weren’t in a position to be giving away one. If we get that and get some of our extra points, maybe we can come out with a victory.”
Pattonsburg took the lead almost right out of the gate, scoring on a 8-yard pass from Willhite to senior Carter Crone.
Baker responded, throwing a 29-yard dime to junior Clayton Linville. After the two-point conversion, the game stood tied 8-8.
Both teams exchanged missed conversions late in the first quarter, leaving the game within 22-14. Two of North Andrew’s three second-quarter attempts failed, falling behind by 12 at the half.
Pattonsburg allowed North Andrew to have offensive success despite the missed conversions, leaving room for improvement.
“We got to tackle. We got to play sound football,” Cavin said. “We were bad on defense tonight. Credit to North Andrew because they run the ball well, they do what they do well… We only got one stop. We got to get better there.”
North Andrew sees its ability to keep up with Pattonsburg’s offense as something to build off.
“We wanted to play the best in the state, that’s what they are, and we wanted to see where we were at,” Williams said. “Well, we’re six points less. If we can play like this for the rest of the season, we feel we’ll be in a good position.”
The Cardinals host Osceola next Friday, while Pattonsburg hosts King City.