BONNE TERRE – Three separate false start penalties hindered a promising initial drive for the North County football team that began near midfield on Friday night.
Similar mistakes that plagued the Raiders in week 3 against Festus showed up early against De Soto, but the collective response was much more favorable.
Senior quarterback Kolten Poorman had a sharp passing effort throughout the first half, and added two short touchdown sneaks as North County surged to a 60-28 home victory.
Jaelen Reed shined with 109 yards and four scores on 13 carries while providing four tackles for loss on the defensive side for the Raiders (2-2, 1-1).
Blitzing linebacker Layton Mallow drilled quarterback Briar Fischer on the final play of the second quarter after Reed had sacked him on the opening snap from scrimmage. Pacen DeClue also added a sack among three stops behind the line to help North County establish a 28-7 lead at intermission.
Sophomore Karter Kekec returned the second half kickoff to the De Soto 35, and made a leaping 28-yard reception that set up an easy 2-yard plunge for Reed.
Carson Hughes bounced off two defenders for the 2-point conversion, and North County was poised for a potential runaway as the margin reached 36-7.
But the defensive displayed a few more cracks as the contest moved along, and De Soto (2-2, 1-1) made things interesting for a while after notching back-to-back scoring drives.
Clayton Snudden, who puzzled the Raiders’ secondary on several occasions, gained 25 yards on a short pass over the middle. Camren Krodinger was uncovered down the left side on a 32-yard touchdown, and Kameren Brooks stood all alone on the 2-point catch.
North County followed with its lone turnover on a botched option pitch that defensive lineman Trevor Reando recovered. Snudden escaped a hit moments later on a 36-yard scoring grab that suddenly got the Dragons within 36-22.
Raiders senior Cole Ziegler missed a tackle on that play, but instantly returned the favor by making a nifty cut past Snudden on a swing pass and racing 68 yards to the end zone.
Fischer finished 16-of-28 passing for 309 yards, and engineered a De Soto response as a 21-yard screen to Cole Watson set up a perfect play-action fake and 17-yard touchdown toss over the top to Brooks.
North County started the next possession from its own 2 while leading 44-28 with 2:25 left in the third quarter, but essentially deflated the Dragons with a brilliant 98-yard march that covered 10 plays.
Three straight catches by Noah Mesey moved the chains – the last of which followed back-to-back flags against the offensive line – and Poorman added a 24-yard keeper with solid downfield blocking.
Reed capped the march on a 1-yard touchdown and 2-point run with 10:34 remaining, and found the end zone once more from 4 yards out after De Soto gave up possession on downs at its own 35.
Poorman competed 17-of-22 throws for 326 yards despite having three glance off the hands of open receivers. He added 88 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Both teams were just four days removed from their previous games as lightning and heavy rain forced the entire MAFC Red Division to postpone scheduled contest last weekend.
Mallow stuffed a fourth-and-1 run to turn back De Soto on the game’s opening series. The Raiders then converted their own fourth down, and Reed rambled 26 yards after flattening two defenders.
North County ultimately reached the Dragons’ 6 before being pushed back, and a pass toward Ziegler landed incomplete as he crashed to the turf.
Snudden totaled 116 yards on seven receptions, and used gains of 25 and 26 yards to give De Soto the chance to grab an early lead.
Reed provided an important tackle in the backfield, however, and the Raiders stopped an awkward option pitch well short of the mark on fourth-and-7 from the North County 23.
Mesey ignited the Raiders on their second possession with a 38-yard catch over his shoulder, and Poorman added a short run to make it 6-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
Following a De Soto three-and-out, North County progressed forward with a 23-yard jaunt by Reed. Poorman again iced the drive from 3 yards out, and Hughes tacked on the 2-point conversion.
The Dragons wasted a 93-yard kickoff return by Snudden due to a holding penalty on first-and-goal, and coughed up their next drive as Raiders lineman Ben Dunlap recovered a fumble.
Ziegler displayed his speed on a 40-yard touchdown catch and run that made it 22-0, and compiled 147 yards on four receptions overall.
De Soto ended its drought when Watson slipped from the backfield and caught a screen to sprint 55 yards with 1:47 left before halftime.
But North County countered after Ziegler brought the subsequent kick to the Raiders’ 46. His 31-yard catch preceded a 14-yard touchdown run up the middle by Reed.
Mesey totaled 103 yards on seven catches, and Kekec provided five grabs for 63 yards.
North County will step out of conference play to host Kennett next week.