No. 6 Bulldogs ride running game to first playoff victory

Photo by Stephanie Backus.

— The South Callaway Bulldogs made it look rather easy in obtaining their first-ever playoff win.

Junior tailback Hunter Leeper accounted for two of South Callaway’s six rushing touchdowns Wednesday night as the Bulldogs cruised to a 41-21 victory over Clopton/Elsberry in a Class 2 regional.

South Callaway — making its third straight postseason appearance but hosting a playoff game for the first time — controlled the Hawks by scoring on six possessions in a row. The Bulldogs (10-1), who moved up one place to No. 6 in this week’s state poll, raced to a 35-7 halftime lead.

South Callaway will now go on the road for a sectional game at Mark Twain (7-4) next Monday night. Mark Twain advanced by turning back Blair Oaks (8-3) 20-14 in regional play Wednesday night.

The Bulldogs established a commanding lead in the first half, scoring on five of their six possessions while breaking the game open behind a 28-point outburst in the second quarter.

South Callaway assembled a 77-yard drive on its second series of the game to produce its first points. Senior tailback Bryan Lechner slipped into the end zone from 2 yards out and sophomore quarterback Jason Kimminau added the extra point to make it 7-0 with 6 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first quarter.

Clopton/Elsberry, which ended its season at 6-5, managed to move as far as the Bulldogs’ 21-yard line on its ensuing possession before turning the ball over on downs. South Callaway answered with a 79-yard drive to extend its lead, going up 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter when junior Konrad Kemper — sharing time at QB with Kimminau — broke off a 34-yard touchdown run.

The Bulldogs added to their advantage on their next series on the first of two straight touchdown runs by Leeper, this one covering 25 yards with 7:07 to play in the first half. Leeper then increased South Callaway’s lead to 28-0 when he scored on a 5-yard run at the 4:31 mark of the second quarter.

Clopton/Elsberry was finally able to gain some traction against the Bulldogs’ defense, interrupting South Callaway’s scoring barrage. Junior quarterback Scott Kroeger scored on a 3-yard keeper with 1:18 to play.

The Bulldogs, though, were not content to go into halftime with a 21-point advantage. Set up on a long pass play from Kimminau to Leeper, junior tailback T.J. Buchholz shoved his way into the end zone from 1 yard out with :30 left to give South Callaway a comfortable 28-point edge at the break.

The Hawks then turned the ball over on downs at their own 24 on the opening possession of the third quarter, allowing the Bulldogs to pad their lead again. Kimminau scored on a 1-yard keeper with 7:34 to go in the third quarter, but his extra-point attempt sailed wide left.

Clopton/Elsberry then countered with a scoring drive on its next series. After converting a fourth-and-1, Kroeger snuck into the end zone from 2 yards out on the next play. The Hawks, though, failed on the two-point conversion attempt — leaving them down 41-13 with 2:26 remaining in the quarter.

The score remained that way until Clopton/Elsberry closed within the final margin after a 5-yard touchdown pass from Kroeger to senior wide receiver Jordan Henke with :50 to play in the game. The Hawks tacked on the two-point conversion on a pass play.

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