KIRKSVILLE — The Kirksville Tigers are going to have to wait at least another week for a chance to ring their victory bell at home after the Mexico Bulldogs ran all over the Tigers to spoil Kirksville’s Homecoming game, 21-6.
It was a defensive battle throughout the first half. Mexico (5-2) scored on its first drive of the game when Dillon Nichols scored from 8 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 with 7:39 left in the first quarter, but then both defenses dug in and neither offense could get anything going for most of the remainder of the half.
Kirksville (2-5) had a chance to tie the game when Blake Lewis took a handoff and galloped 75 yards before being tackled at Mexico’s 5-yard line with six minutes left in the half. Kirksville then tried to run the ball twice with Colton GIllespie, but gained just two yards in the process. After an incomplete pass on third down, KHS again gave the ball to Lewis, who was stopped at the 1-yard line.
“We wanted to pound the ball with Colton,” KHS Conrad Schottel said. “He’s our thumper. We like giving him the ball between the tackles. It just didn’t work out but that was a momentum shifter right there. We just need to execute better on those plays.”
With the lead intact, Mexico slowly chipped away a few yards at a time and then with 1:32 left in the half Cameron Holman scored from 28 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.
Mexico finished the first half with 171 total yards on 33 plays, with 142 rushing yards coming on 27 attempts. Kirksville was limited to 72 rushing yards on 14 runs and no passing yards on six attempts in the first half.
“That first half we played so much better than we did in the last few weeks. Looking back, we know that we can run the option really well,” Mexico coach Steve Haag said. “We’ve moved away from it the last few games and felt out of sync. When we came into this game we knew we needed to run the option a little more.
“Defensively, we had great communication in practice to slow down and that helped us a lot this game. Kirksville has some guys that can run and throw the ball. We knew we had to be in the right spot tonight. I thought we played consistently throughout the game. We had a few stupid mistakes, but if we clean those up, we’ll be good closing out the season.”
It was a frustrating game for Kirksville, which had just run for 225 yards against Boonville the previous week. The Tigers were limited to 94 rushing yards against the Bulldogs. Lewis finished with 100 rushing yards on 12 attempts.
“I don’t think we had more than three first downs other than our final drive,” Schottel said. “Mexico’s front end handled us. We got beat in the trenches big time. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”
The game was put out of reach in the third quarter when Mexico quarterback Jonathon Grubb scrambled 46 yards to paydirt and put the Bulldogs up 21-0
Kirksville finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, when two consecutive Mexico penalties gave the Tigers the ball inside the 20-yard line. Three plays later, Gillespie scored dove into the end zone from 1 yard out to cut the Mexico lead to 21-6 with 10:15 left in the game.
The Bulldogs will host Fulton next week and Kirksville will play its final home game of the regular season when it hosts Helias Catholic.