BELTON - Not many would have predicted the DeSoto Eagles to be 1-3 heading into district play, but after a 35-33 loss to the Steele Knights (4-0) Thursday night at Crusader Stadium, that’s the situation the Eagles find themselves in. This time it wasn’t turnovers that did the Eagles in as they actually were +2 in that category, it was Steele’s sheer domination up front on both sides of the ball that proved to be the difference.
Anytime DeSoto threatened, Steele would respond with a big drive as the offensive line allowed Travell Lumpkin and Byrson Denley to pick up key conversions and when the Knights needed to throw the ball, QB Xavier Martin (218 passing yards two touchdowns) had time to find playmakers. The Steele defensive line led by Mark Jackson and Joshua Croslen harassed DeSoto QB Tristen Wallace all night and didn’t allow DeSoto a chance to get much rhythm offensively.
DeSoto took their first two possessions and marched right down the field on Steele getting to the four yard line each time, but coming away only with two 21 yard field goals from Verrick Dyer. Steele on the other hand took their first two drives and converted both times as Martin scored on a one yard run on 4th and goal from the one and Denley had a one yard scoring run to give the Knights a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter.
Steele would stop DeSoto three and out and after a 14 yard punt set the Knights up in good field position they took a commanding 21-6 lead as Martin hooked up with Antoine Cox-Wesley for a two yard scoring pass and a commanding 21-6 lead. DeSoto would respond quickly marching down the field with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, scoring with just one second remaining in the second on a one yard run by La’Darren Brown to make it 21-13 Steele at the half.
The Knights wasted little time in the second half extending the lead back to fifteen points as on the second play of the half Martin threw a swing pass to C.J. Williams who did the rest outracing the DeSoto secondary to the end zone for a 57 yard catch and run and a 28-13 Steele lead. DeSoto would give the ball up on downs on the next drive and it appeared the Knights were ready to put the hammer down, but DeSoto’s defense recovered a Steele fumble and the offense would again go to work.
Wallace would open the series with a 32 yard pass to Brown and the drive would be capped with a five yard touchdown from Wallace to Laviska Shenault to cut the Steele lead to 28-20 and give DeSoto some momentum. After an exchange of punts (Steele’s only punt of the night), DeSoto’s defense would again come up big recovering another fumble by Steele and capitalizing quickly. This Eagle touchdown would come on a two yard run by Brown, the key play being a 4th and 8 conversion as Wallace hooked up with Brendan Rushing to keep the drive alive. DeSoto would go for two and fail but with 9:34 left the Steele lead had been cut to 28-26.
Steele would answer with a quick five play scoring drive, helped by two DeSoto penalties (one a late hit out of bounds) capped with a 20 yard touchdown run from Lumpin who finished the night with 138 yards of offense. That would give Steele a two score lead at 35-26, but DeSoto proved the lead would not be comfortable. The Eagles would march 71 yards in ten plays scoring on an eight yard run by Wallace to again cut the Steele lead to two at 35-33 with 4:25 left. DeSoto then with two timeouts left elected to try an onside kick that failed giving Steele the ball near midfield. Three first downs later the Knights had moved all the way to the DeSoto three yard line before taking three straight kneel downs to win the game 35-33 and head into District 25-6A play unbeaten.