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story.lead_photo.caption Jays running back David Bethune breaks away from Kirkwood's Jackson Fortner during a 40-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Saturday afternoon's game at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Jason Strickland / News Tribune.

Take the snap, turn, flick the wrist and let the receivers do the rest.

Out of the 25 passes Kirkwood's Kannon Nesslage threw Saturday afternoon at Adkins Stadium, nine of them accounted for touchdowns.

In his first varsity start, Nesslage tied for the second-most touchdown passes in a game in Missouri high school football history.

Cole Dilley of Pattonsburg holds the record with 10 in a game against Braymer in 2017.

Saturday marked the seventh time a player has recorded nine touchdowns.

"I thought there were a couple throws where we could have got pressure on him, but for the most part, that kid was getting the ball out of his hand in about a count and a half," Jays coach Terry Walker said after a 61-35 defeat to the Pioneers in the season opener that was postponed to Saturday because of severe weather. "And you're not going to get pressure on that.

"And it's really hard to disrupt his rhythm because he was throwing the ball so quickly. We tried to do some things in the secondary to put some pressure on him with regards to the bubble and the tunnel, but you've got to make tackles in space."

Kirkwood's ninth touchdown came with 2:12 left in the third quarter on a pass to Jackson Fortner, who made his way along the sideline for a 40-yard score.

Fortner caught five passes — three for touchdowns — for 100 yards.

David Bregande added his seventh PAT for a 61-28 lead.

The Jays' lone second-half score came with 8:33 remaining.

Cole Gresham took off on a designed quarterback run and made it to the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown.

Ben Folz made his fifth PAT to make it 61-35.

Gresham had a pair of rushing scores in the game, with the first being a 1-yard sneak to take a 21-20 lead at the 6:55 mark of the second quarter.

"I think the kids are learning what we're asking them to do, which is there's going to be good things and bad things that happen on the football field," Walker said. "You have to line up and you've got to play your hardest on each and every single play. And I saw a lot of that this afternoon."

That advantage lasted less than a minute after a 25-yard completion to Will Lee on the second play of the ensuing drive and an 11-yard connection to Jaylen Phipps for a touchdown.

Phipps found the end zone three times, including on the first drive of the second half when he found space deep down the middle of the field for an 81-yard score to lead 47-28.

"Obviously our cover skills aren't real good," Walker said. "That being the case, the kid was throwing the ball so quickly that we really weren't going to get a rush on him. They were just better than we were in space."

Phipps finished with a game-high 159 yards on five receptions.

Lee also went over the 100-yard mark with 102 yards on four catches with a pair of touchdowns.

"They played well, man," said Kirkwood assistant coach Jeremy Maclin, who is in his first year at his alma mater after retiring from a 10-year NFL career. "I think that's credit to those guys. Coach (Jason) Evans and I just told them when it's for real, when it's time to go, they'll be ready and they proved it."

Maclin's cousin, Jay, a senior who has committed to play at Missouri, had to watch the game from the sideline on crutches.

But the Pioneers (1-0) were just fine without him, taking a 20-7 lead less than 8 minutes into the game.

Jefferson City (0-1) tied the game at 7 when Devin White corralled a juggling, one-handed catch behind the Kirkwood defense for a 75-yard score less than 2 minutes into the game.

After the teams traded punts, Kirkwood scored on touchdown passes of 37 and 54 yards to Fortner and Cameron Macon, respectively.

Macon's came on a short swing pass off play-action, creating plenty of space on the right side of the field.

Jefferson City responded by putting together an eight-play, 73-yard drive that ended with David Bethune busting through a hole, breaking free from a defender at the 23-yard line and sprinting free to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.

Bethune ran it six times for 46 yards to lead the Jays.

Gresham's go-ahead touchdown run came following a fake punt by Kirkwood on fourth-and-9 that failed thanks to Alex Burkhead's tackle of punter Lee three yards short at the Kirkwood 27.

The Pioneers then reached the end zone on six straight drives to pull away.

"We certainly wish we would have played last night in the rain," Walker said.

Gresham completed 7-of-13 passes for 112 yard with a touchdown and an interception on the game's opening drive.

White caught three of those passes for 84 yards. He also added an 83-yard kickoff return touchdown with 2:14 left in the first half.

"I actually think we have several guys that are capable of making big plays," Walker said. "I think that Devin and David made a couple of big plays today. Obviously I thought Cole did some really good things at quarterback. I thought (Darrell Jones) and Nick (Williams) and Mike Heislen and even Marshaun Dye made plays. They just need to keep working, because if they do then good things are going to happen."

The Jays will head Friday to Hannibal to take on the Pirates, who opened the season Friday night with a 46-0 defeat at Helias.

Game time is 7 p.m.

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