Junior quarterback Brayden Rother took his first snap of the football game in the fourth quarter. The backup signal-caller was thrust into the game one play after North Kansas City's Adetomiwa Adebawore violently threw starter Jevean Brown to the ground.
That first play was routine, a handoff to senior Christian Davis, but a bobbled transfer put the football on the ground just past the line of scrimmage. NKC recovered the fumble and soon had built upon its 27-20 lead.
Just like that, a potential win over an undefeated team slipped out of Hickman's hands. The Kewpies fell to NKC, 34-20.
Everyone knew who would be getting the ball for the Hornets on Friday night: Clyde Price. The senior running back left his mark on this game early, en route to scoring all five of the Hornets' touchdowns and gaining over 400 all-purpose yards.
"We didn't tackle," Hickman coach Cedric Alvis said. "Clyde's a hell of a running back and he showed that tonight ... If you give him the ball enough times, he will end up wearing you down. That's what happened to us."
Repeatedly, NKC lined up in an I-formation and repeatedly, Price ran all over Hickman's defense. On the Hornets' first play from scrimmage, Price dashed 73-yards to put NKC up 6-0. It was the first of his three touchdowns in the first half.
Hickman responded, though, and Brown lead the team to a 13-6 lead with 4:37 left in the first quarter.
It began with Brown's ability to run on read-option plays. On the Kewpie's first drive, he was extremely effective moving in and out of the pocket.
He delivered a 41-yard touchdown strike to senior Cortney Watkins while rolling out of the pocket. On the next Hickman drive, Brown turned a busted play into a 10-yard touchdown run. He turned to hand the ball off to no one, then scampered through the middle of the defense for an easy score.
By the end of the first quarter the score was tied 13-13, and both Brown and Price had two touchdowns.
But Hickman missed an opportunity to take control of the game in the second quarter. The Kewpies were up 20-13 after Davis carried in a 5-yard touchdown, but failed to capitalize on a timely interception from Mason Rohr that gave Hickman great field position.
A missed field-goal attempt squandered one of the few Kewpies' opportunities to take a two-possession lead. Then the Hornets tied the game with 18 seconds left in the first half, leaving a sour taste on an otherwise-solid first-half performance.
Both teams struggled in the third quarter before NKC put a stranglehold on the game in the fourth. Price's 44-yard touchdown run with 9:24 left in the game, along with the aforementioned turnover, doomed the Kewpies.
Before it ended, Price broke a 47-yard touchdown run for good measure.
"We were in a close game," Alvis said. "But our Achilles heel is we haven't able to handle adversity. Bad things happened and we didn't handle it well."
Despite the tough loss, this was another encouraging performance from Hickman. NKC is now 7-0 on the year and the Kewpies were a few plays away from a different outcome.
According to Alvis, Brown was "banged up in the fourth quarter." The team will know more about his status later this weekend. Brown missed the last two series of the game.
Unlike last week's loss to Battle, no one phase of the game was to blame for the loss. So heading into next week's Senior Night, the Kewpies have a lot to look forward to.
Hickman hosts Truman at 7 p.m. on Oct. 12 at LeMone Field. The Patriots are 0-7 this season and coming off a 46-13 loss to Park Hill South on Friday.
Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.