By Mark Schremmer & Matt Gilmore, Kpreps.com
Posted: September 3, 2012 - 7:56 PM
The Kansas high school football season is here and if Friday night is any indication of what is to come, we are in for an exciting 2012 season. Several ranked teams and three defending state champions fell on an opening night where weather played a major factor as the remnants of Hurricane Issac passed through the eastern half of the state.
Expectations were high for a stellar season-opener as Class 5A’s second-ranked Blue Valley Tigers traveled to face Class 6A’s fourth-ranked Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazers.
Instead, the game played out much like the weather in Gardner on Friday night – sloppy and unrelenting. With little offense from either team, Gardner-Edgerton benefitted from sophomore Anthony Smartt’s 95-yard kickoff return to open the game and held on for an 8-6 victory.
A steady downpour and strong winds led to several fumbles and limited both teams offensively. To be precise, the teams combined for 10 fumbles, two interceptions and seven turnovers on down.
Gardner-Edgerton star running back Traevohn Wrench, who rushed for 2,448 yards last season, was limited to 29 yards on 23 carries.
“I’m thrilled that we played a survival game and played so hard to the very end and survived the game,” Trailblazers coach Marvin Diener said.
The opening kickoff provided a sense of how difficult the conditions would be but also gave the impression it could lead to a lot of points.
In Smartt’s first varsity play of his life, he fumbled the opening kick return but picked it up and used the conditions to his advantage to run 95 yards for the touchdown.
“The ball was real wet and rain actually hit me in my eye, so I lost it,” Smartt said. “So I saw it on the ground and looked up and picked up and just did to the best of my abilities and was lucky enough to get the TD. I saw a hole open up and thought, ‘I have to take it.’ I was scared. I muffed it and thought, ‘I’m fired. I’m fired.’ So I’m just real grateful.”
Gardner-Edgerton quarterback Jared Hobby followed the kick return with a two-point conversion run for the 8-0 lead.
After that, the Trailblazers were extremely limited on offense. Wrench did break loose for a 23-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage, but he was held to five yards on his next 21 carries.
“We really need to throw the ball to loosen people up,” Diener said. “They had nine in the box. Basically, we did, too. To try and get rushing yards was just brutal. But to throw into the wind also was really difficult. When you take the pass away from both teams, which the weather really did, it makes running the ball very hard. Because those are two very good rushing defenses.”
Blue Valley reserve quarterback Henry McGrew, who relieved starter Logan Brettell in running situations, rumbled for a 13-yard TD run in the second quarter. However, McGrew fell inches short on the conversion run.
The Tigers approached the redzone in the fourth quarter, but Brettell’s 42-yard field goal attempt fell short with less than two minutes remaining.
“We’ve learned that our defense is very physical,” Blue Valley coach Eric Driskell said. “The kids played hard. You know they got heart.
“They can still accomplish every goal we have as long as they respond to the adversity.”
Elsewhere across the state…
The showdown of the state’s top-ranked eight-man teams lived up to its billing. Baileyville B&B, ended Madison’s 26 game winning streak with a 34-22 win at Madison. The Falcons trailed the Bulldogs 16-0 early before pulling to within 22-20 at halftime. But B&B quarterback Dustin Rottinghaus connected with Cameron Haug for two touchdown passes in the second half – both coming after Madison turnovers. The defeat was Madison’s first since the first-round of the 2009 playoffs when the Bulldogs fell 44-12 to, you guessed it, Baileyville B&B.
The Kpreps Game of the Week as voted on by the fans turned out to be a statement game for Phillipsburg. The Panthers, christened their new stadium with a 48-18 win over 2-1A’s second-ranked Plainville Cardinals. Panther quarterback Sean Newlan threw two long touchdown passes as Phillipsburg built a 35-12 lead in cruising to the win.
Defending 6A champion Olathe South escaped the weather to claim a 6-0 win over rival Olathe East. Chase Hanson broke a tackle and 74-yards later gave the Falcons a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter. Given the rain and the field conditions it stood up. Olathe East threatened before halftime, but Hayden Frazier was stopped just short o the end zone on fourth-and-goal.
The Hays Indians, ranked fifth in 5A, jumped out to a 22-0 first-quarter lead at Junction City. But the Blue Jays kept chipping away, and eventually tied the game at 36 with 1:42 left. Hays scored first in overtime and kicked the PAT to lead 43-36. Two plays later, Junction City scored on a Jovon Toles touchdown run. Coach Randall Zimmerman went for two and the win, and it paid off as the Blue Jays converted for a 44-43 overtime win.
In Class 4A, top-ranked Topeka Hayden was upset by arch-rival Topeka Seaman, 23-6. Viking quarterback Butch Rea rushed for 123 yards and two scores in the win. Hayden actually outgained the Vikings, but Hayden was slowed by six fumbles and three turnovers.
Meade joined Hayden and Madison as top-ranked teams that fell on Friday night. The Buffaloes led Holcomb 19-14 at halftime before Heath Tucker scored twice in the second half to give the Longhorns a 28-19 lead. Meade closed the gap to one with a Trevin Weins touchdown run and a two-point conversion, but a late drive by the Buffs was negated by an interception and Holcomb held on for a 28-27 win.
Buhler held off a late Rose Hill comeback to hold off the defending champs 26-21. Crusader running back Riley Allen rushed for 278 yards and all four touchdowns as Buhler built a 26-7 lead. Rose Hill closed within five with just over two minutes left, but could not execute the onside kick. Buhler beat the Rockets 18-10 to open the 2011 season; the only loss suffered by Rose Hill last season.
An intriguing match-up in Barton County as 5A Great Bend traveled the 10 miles north to take on 3A Hoisington. The Panthers came away with a 14-6 win as Josh Lopez rushed for 106 yards on the night.
Larned snapped a 24-game losing streak with a 27-25 win over Ellsworth. The win comes in the first game for new coach A.B. Stokes and is the Indians first victory since September 18, 2009 when they beat Thomas More Prep, 36-26.
Thunder Ridge was the third defending champion to fall on Friday night as the Longhorns were trounced 62-16 by Mankato-Rock Hills. Joel Broeckelman rushed for 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Grizzlies to victory.