Sweet Springs football: White leads Gryphons to first playoff win

Thursday, November 5, 2009
The 'Hounds narrowed the margin to 21-14 on senior Tyler Armstrong's 10-yard touchdown run with 5:54 remaining in the first half. (Chris Allen/Democrat-News)

KANSAS CITY -- The Sweet Springs football team found out Wednesday what it was like trying to capture an apparition.

One moment, senior quarterback Darrenn White was there, in the Greyhounds' grasp, the next he had disappeared -- only to reappear deep down the field, if not in the end zone.

White ran for 269 yards and five touchdowns and threw for another 125 yards and two scores to lead University Academy Charter of Kansas City to a 49-28 victory in the MSHSAA Class 1 Regionals, the first playoff victory for the seven-year-old program.

The Gryphons' speed, especially that of White, "was a huge factor," admitted Sweet Springs head coach Tim Smith. "Athletically, we couldn't match up with them."

University scored on four of its first five possessions, only one of them taking longer than 73 seconds. A 39-yard run by sophomore Brian Smith set up White's 6-yard TD dash early in the first quarter.

Late in the period, Smith reeled off a 30-yarder and White took off for 17 to reach the 'Hounds' 3-yard line -- from where White flipped to Smith in the end zone.

After moving no more than 14 yards on its first three series, Sweet Springs' offense started to roll during the second frame. Senior Tyler Armstrong got loose for 29 yards to the Gryphons' 16 and senior Tyler Dohrman took it the rest of the way on the next play.

It only took University 48 seconds to answer, senior Joshua Wilson catching a 30-yard pass and White fleeing the pocket for 41 yards to pay dirt two snaps later.

"He likes to pass quite a bit, but when it's not there he's going to take off on his own," Smith said. "That's tough to emulate in practice because we don't have anybody like that."

Once more, the 'Hounds marched downfield, a little more slowly this time -- taking over five minutes to run off 10 plays during a 76-yard drive which ended on Armstrong's 10-yard run.

White wasted no time responding, slipping out of an attempted tackle at the line of scrimmage and going 64 yards on the first play of the possession.

Again, here came Sweet Springs, grinding out 48 yards on 13 plays, including key third-down runs by junior David Hall and Dohrman, to reach the Gryphons' 3. On third down, Dohrman banged across the goal line, only to have the apparent touchdown called back on a holding penalty.

"You can't take that away from us!" Smith screamed at the referees, to no avail. To its credit, the officiating crew showed considerable tolerance, not adding to the punishment. Still, the 'Hounds were unable to get the ball in, White intercepting a fourth-down pass with 11 seconds left in the half to preserve University's 28-14 lead.

"That's a big momentum change," Smith said about the "frustrating" foul. "You're ready to make it a one-score game and the official throws a flag."

"That's a backbreaker," Smith declared, and if it wasn't so at the moment then it became true when the Gryphons struck for three third-quarter touchdowns.

The first was on the third of three White runs, of 39, 7 and 12 yards. Then he went 42 yards for a score after University took over in the visitors' end of the field -- speeding up the middle, then slowing to pick his way through traffic and finally accelerating between defenders.

It was that way throughout the evening, White seeming to glide on ice, then cutting, changing gears and even throwing it into reverse -- while regularly shaking off tackles.

"We didn't do a very good job of it," Smith admitted. "You want to put people in position to make plays, but sometimes backs out of or spins out of it."

White threw a 50-yard bomb to junior Kalib Gilmore to finish the Gryphons' scoring, standing calmly in the pocket until flushed out -- then setting to throw once he created space.

Sweet Springs control the ball for the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, putting together two touchdown drives -- eight plays for 40 yards on the first one and, after junior Matt Vogelsmeier recovered an onside kick, 13 plays for 51 yards. Dohrman scored from five and three yards out.

Senior Voncell Brownlee had 16 tackles for University Academy (9-2), which hosts fifth-ranked Tipton in the sectional round Monday -- a rematch of last year's regional pairing won by the Cardinals, 42-0.

Dohrman finished with 149 rushing yards to lead the 'Hounds (5-6), who lose nine seniors from the first back-to-back playoff teams in school history.

"They're going to be missed," Smith remarked. "For as good of football players as they were, that's how good of kids they are."

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