The Aurora Houn' Dawgs began their attempt to defend last year's district title and Class 3 semifinal finish with a state quarterfinal rematch against Mountain Grove on August 19. Coach Kale Kilgo's team fell 35-21 to the Panthers to drop to 0-1 on the young season.
The coin flip had the Dawgs receiving the ball to start the game, and the offense started off with a 10 yard pass from Payton Evans to Keaton Willard, both seniors, for a first down.
Faced with a fourth down and three to go situation on the same drive, Kilgo took a timeout with his team at the Mountain Grove 34-yard line. On the ensuing play, Evans scrambled for 15 yards and a first down to keep the drive alive.
A minute later, Evans found senior Wyatt Neff on a five-yard touchdown pass and the Houn' Dawgs' first touchdown of the season. Senior kicker Jeremy Scholbrock connected on the extra point to put the home team ahead, 7-0.
The lead would not last long, though, as Mountain Grove drove down the field, chipping away at the Aurora defense with short runs before finding the end zone with a six-yard run. The Panthers converted the extra point, and the 7-7 score would last for the remainder of the opening quarter.
Aurora's next drive looked much the same as the first and eventually ended in a one-yard scoring pass to senior Preston Naylor. Scholbrock's second PAT attempt of the night was good to give the Houn' Dawgs a 14-7 lead.
But again, the lead was short-lived. With less than a minute to go in the half, the Panthers drove into the end zone again to tie the game after the extra point.
Mountain Grove recovered an Aurora fumble after an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but a defensive stop by the Houn' Dawgs prevented the Panthers from taking the momentum to the locker room at halftime.
Unfortunately for the home team, that halftime momentum wouldn't give way to offensive success, as the only score of the third quarter belonged to Mountain Grove. A six-yard scoring run midway through the period gave the visitors a 20-14 lead, but a missed PAT kept the Houn' Dawgs within striking position.
Mountain Grove opened the final quarter with another scoring drive, adding a two-point conversion to go up by a score of 28-14.
With just under eight minutes to go, Evans connected with sophomore Logan Lauffer for a 13-yard touchdown to make it a seven-point game again.
But that's all the Houn' Dawgs would manage, as Mountain Grove continued to chip away at the Aurora defense, scoring a final touchdown with 2:39 to play. The Panthers shut down the Houn' Dawg offense to take the 35-21 win to open the season.
Statistically, Evans led Aurora with 35 yards rushing and racked up three touchdowns and 92 yards in the air. Neff added 23 yards on five carries, while Willard led the receivers with 48 yards on six catches.
On the defensive side, junior Kyle Todd led with 13 total tackles, while junior Connor Savage and senior Malik Baker added 10 and eight, respectively. All three recorded eight solo tackles.
Aurora will stay at home for week two, hosting Mountain View/Liberty on Friday night.