Aug. 31 Game Recap: Kirkwood 61, Jefferson City 35

Hayden Davidson, sports writer

KHS varsity football put on a strong offensive performance to secure a 61-35 win in their first game of the season. Originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, as the home opener at KHS, severe thunderstorms and flash flood warnings caused the game to be postponed. The game was rescheduled to be played at Jefferson City High School at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. KHS (8-4 in 2018) faced Jefferson City (4-6) in their opening game last season, which KHS won 37-0

The scoring started early this year, as KHS struck first with a 23-yard pass to junior Will Lee four and a half minutes into the game. On the next possession, 17 seconds later, Jefferson City wide receiver Devin White took it all the way for a 75-yard touchdown reception to even the score. KHS controlled the first and third quarters, winning each one 20-7 and 21-0, respectively, while both teams scored 21 points in the second quarter. 

KHS quarterback Kannon Nesslage, junior, came fully prepared for his first varsity start, finishing with 437 passing yards and nine passing touchdowns, both of which set the KHS record for most in one game. Nesslage only played the first three quarters of the game (Ryland Irvin, junior, took over at quarterback for the fourth quarter) and delivered three touchdowns in each quarter he played. 

Hayden Davidson
Junior Jaylen Phipps, wide receiver/defensive back

“[The biggest factor was] not to overthink things, just stay within myself and not get too nervous, and trying to just stay [focused] the whole game,” Nesslage said. “I just wanted to do my job and make the right reads and hit the receivers when they’re open.”

A big performance from the quarterback is often paired with big performances from wide receivers, and Saturday’s contest was no exception. Juniors Jaylen Phipps and Jackson Fortner each recorded three receiving touchdowns, including an 80-yard pass from Nesslage to Phipps less than a minute into the second half. Lee brought home two touchdowns and senior running back Cameron Macon’s lone reception in the game was a 54-yard touchdown in the first quarter. 

“I’ve got to execute on every play and every route,” Phipps said. “The key to success was winning the route [and] Kannon throwing the ball and getting a good ball there.”

Juniors Gerald Jackson and Nate Jones headed the rushing unit, with Jackson taking seven rushes for 96 yards and Jones going for 41 yards on nine rushes.

Macon and Irvin, who also play linebacker, led the defensive charge with one sack each, as well as nine tackles and six tackles, respectively. Fortner, who plays both wide receiver and defensive back, grabbed the game’s only interception early in the first quarter. The special teams’ highlights included sophomore Darius Jones taking two kick returns for a combined 62 yards as well as senior kicker David Bregande tallying seven PATs (point after touchdown).

Hayden Davidson
Junior Kane Drummond, running back/defensive back

On Jefferson City’s side, junior Devin White and senior quarterback Cole Gresham were the top contributors. Gresham rushed for two touchdowns and passed for one, while White had an 82-yard kick return touchdown in addition to his 75-yard touchdown reception. Jefferson City gave KHS a run for their money, holding the lead halfway through the second quarter, but the Pioneers quickly rallied back and retained the lead for the rest of the game. 

“For some [of our players], this is their first start [or] first varsity game. And we played a good team,” KHS head football coach Farrell Shelton said. “[Jefferson City] came out and gave us their best punch, and we survived it, and we learned a lot from it.”

The next Pioneers football action is on the road at Francis Howell High School Friday, Sept. 6. Francis Howell ended last season with a 7-4 record, including a 37-28 loss to KHS in the second game of the year. However, KHS students should be there to support the Pioneers because, according to Shelton, Francis Howell has an experienced team that will draw a big crowd.

“They’re expecting thousands of people there, so we need our Pep Nation there. So we need to call out to that,” Shelton said. “They play hard for the name of Francis Howell, and we’re going to have to weather the storm out there.”


*Full game stats courtesy of (see box score and scoring summary here)