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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

First time QB transforms from all-purpose to all-time

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

(Photo)
Kyland Gross
SIKESTON -- Kyland Gross has, simply, always been there.

He's been as steady as they come when it came to performing for the Sikeston Bulldogs in everything the coaching staff asked of him. A consistent, all-purpose player if there ever was one.

Being consistent was good, but he had to become much more once he was chosen to lead the team at the quarterback position.

He did. And he did it in record-setting fashion.

Gross led the Bulldogs' offense, nearly on his own. Yet a bit on the small side, the fleet-footed senior relied on his quickness and shiftiness to make plays with his feet when Sikeston's offense stumbled along the way and they needed it the most.

"He had to be productive in front of everybody," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "He's always been the kind that was always there, very steady and did everything he was supposed to do but didn't really look to be the limelight kind of person."

Off the field, Gross has always been the quiet type. He says little and, basically, does his job without drawing much attention to himself.

All that changed on the field during his senior year. Not that he became flamboyant or flashy all of sudden, as a matter of fact he may have became more reserved as the yards and touchdowns piled up, but fans had a hard time taking their eyes off of him once he decided to make a play.

"Make no mistake about it, he's a competitor," Gibbs said. "He was extremely fired up for the team and for himself when good things happened, whether it was someone making a block or someone making a run.

"He just goes about it differently than some folks, really. Sometimes people can misinterpret that. But certainly, we knew he was a competitor and he showed that time and time again."

Gross set Sikeston quarterback records during his first and only year at the quarterback position. The 5-10, 160 pound senior had no prior experience playing quarterback, but said he simply wanted to help the team out.

"Coach asked me to play and I told him I would do anything to help my team out," said Gross. "I just tried to do my best at 110 percent. I knew my team needed me."

He isn't a version of the prototypical signal-caller, but fits the Bulldogs' style within their misdirection, option attack. He admitted there wasn't much that he didn't understand about the position despite his lack of experience.

He sure didn't look and end his season like a rookie quarterback either.

Gross, a state champion track star, who helped Sikeston to a 4x200 relay title last year, finished the season with 1,521 rushing yards, setting a school record for most rushing yards by a quarterback and moving him up to sixth on the most rushing yards in a single season by a Bulldog player.

"We do ask a lot from our quarterbacks from the things that we do," Gibbs said. "We were glad he was on our side that's for sure. We expected him to be one of our leaders and be extremely successful. He obviously was."

Although he did much more damage with his legs, Gross still threw for 675 yards and five touchdowns. He completed 39 percent (45 of 115) of his passes and threw six interceptions.

Throughout the year, Sikeston's offense struggled. It seemed, at times, Gross was the only player able to get anything going. The entire season was littered with defensive battles and turnover-plagued games, in particular, fumbles.

As a team, Sikeston (9-2) fumbled the ball 37 times, losing 22.

Gross, who led the team in rushing attempts, was the Bulldogs' lone, consistent weapon.

"Certainly, there were times that Kyland carried us," said Gibbs. "There's no doubt about that. There were times where Kyland was the guy and he certainly didn't shy away from that."

Time after time, Gross was the one who made the big run or scored the game-winner. He was the only positive, offensively, during Sikeston's Week 2 game against NMCC when the senior rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns in an unexpectedly close 12-0 win.

"Times like that, I want to do the most for my team," Gross said. "I just want to work hard and get the win."

Gross came through again against Jennings.

Down 14-8 in the third quarter, Gross scored the next three touchdowns -- a 64-yard run, a 57-yard run and a goal line carry for 19 unanswered points that led to a lopsided 33-14 win that was anything but.

"Big time players make big time plays and I think you build your team around those types of players and try to put them in a position where they can be successful," Gibbs said. "Kyland would come up with those big plays when we needed him the most. There were times where we would drop passes or wouldn't hold on to the ball and Kyland pulled us through."

A lot of times, Gross made his game-saving moments look so easy, juking and sprinting past opposing players toward the end zone.

He, humbly, dismissed that notion.

"It definitely ain't easy," said Gross. "You've got to work for it and it takes time."

A lot of Sikeston's offensive woes stemmed from the injury troubles of running back Chris Word, who still ended up running for over 900 yards.

Without a viable second option, Gross was keyed on but still managed to average 8.7 yards per carry.

"For us, we've always tried to involve as many people as we could in our offense," Gibbs said. "This year, we were a little bit limited in certain positions. No doubt there were times that we added plays to take advantage of what we felt Kyland brought to the table."

Gross has been a two-way starter for the Bulldogs for the last two years. He was an all-conference performer his junior year and continued playing on both sides of the ball this season as well.

He was one of the Bulldogs' top defensive backs with 25 tackles (21 solo), two interceptions and four pass breakups.

"He wasn't a complete surprise to us based on his accomplishments for us. He's been a good football player for three years," Gibbs said. "We knew he had that type of talent. Kyland has been a two-way starter before this year and, obviously, with him taking on the quarterback position, he took on a much larger role."

Gross finished his Bulldog career with 2,450 rushing yards, pushing him past former Bulldog great James Wilder for fifth on the all-time rushing list.

Although his name is inked in the record books, Gross, who hasn't received a lot of interest from prospective colleges, said he took much more from his time with the Bulldogs than what most people would think.

"It was a good year and I've had a great career here," Gross said. "We've had a lot of success and I learned a lot from our coaches about reaching goals. Having your mind set on something, reaching and grabbing it."


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