Goddard stands in the way of a 5th straight Miege title

L to R: Bishop Miege's Sam Pedrotti & Goddard's Kyler Semrad. (Matt Gilmore & Sports in Kansas)
By: Sean Boston for Kpreps.com
Nov 22, 2018

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The goal that every football team sets during the first day of practice in August is to be playing after Thanksgiving for a state championship. That’s not a goal at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park anymore, that’s an expectation. The Stags will be playing for their fifth consecutive Class 4A state title on Saturday afternoon in Topeka when they face Goddard (10-2).

“Anytime you can be playing for a state championship means you’ve been doing something right,” Miege coach Jon Holmes said. “We’ve had to battle through a lot of adversity this season with losing some key guys early in the season, but our guys have handled it well and battled through it all. It’s a special feeling when you’re playing past Thanksgiving.”

Goddard, on the other hand has been one of the most surprising teams this season. The Lions were thought by some to be in a rebuilding year, as they are under first-year head coach, Tommy Beason. Beason has been a part of the Goddard coaching staff in the years past, but he took over for Scott Vang following the 2017 season. The Lions finished runner-up in class 5A in 2016 and lost in the 5A semifinals to eventual champion Bishop Carroll last fall. So the Lions have become accustomed to practicing late into November over the past few years.

“I’ve been blessed to have such a great staff by my side this whole ride,” Beason said. “We’re a different team this year. I think that our guys are doing a great job of learning their own identity. It’s not easy to transition from losing so many quality seniors and losing a head coach, but I’m so proud of my guys and that shows the quality and character of my players and coaching staff. They’ve believed in each other all season long and that’s what’s been so special.”

The Lions have had a tough path to Saturday’s state championship game. They lost to Maize, 27-2 in week 5 and then two weeks later they would lose to Maize South, 23-22 in double-overtime.

When the playoffs came around, the Lions would have to travel in the quarterfinals and semifinals after hosting the first two games. The Lions defeated Towanda-Circle in the first round and then beat Andover Central for the second time this season. The road then got much more challenging as the Lions rallied at Wellington in the quarterfinals to beat the Crusaders, 28-14 after trailing 14-0 in the first half. The Lions then came from down 14-9 at McPherson to upset the top-seeded Bullpups, 15-14 last Friday night.

“My associate head coach, Darrin Fisher picked up a line this year that we use quite a bit,” Beason said. “It says, ‘It’s not about winning games, it’s about winning championships.’ It’s not about a single play or the 48 minutes during a single game, it’s about winning championships and creating a culture of what it takes to be a team to that is able to battle through adversity.”

Bishop Miege on the other had has won five straight games since losing at St. Thomas Aquinas (playing in 5A state title game) in week 7. The Stags’ only two losses came to teams that are still playing in the playoffs with Aquinas and Rockhurst (Mo.) who will play in the Missouri Class 6 state title game. The strength of the Eastern Kansas League and high-profile, non-league opponents has always helped prepare the Stags for the postseason according to Holmes.

“You look at our two losses this season and see that they’re still playing in the playoffs and that means something to our guys,” Holmes said. “The EKL is quite the conference, because there are so many great teams in the conference and I think a lot of it starts with the great coaches we have here in the league.”

Both teams had to replace all-state quarterbacks heading into this season, as Goddard graduated Blake Sullivan (Fort Hays State football) and Miege with the graduation of Carter Putz (Notre Dame baseball). That hasn’t stopped either team from making another deep run this fall, as the Lions have turned to sophomore Kyler Semrad and the Stags have went to senior Sam Pedrotti to fill the roles of the previous all-state players.

Pedrotti has thrown for 2,153 yards on 147 completions, 24 TD’s and 9 INT’s for the Stags. He has also rushed for 205 yards and 4 TD’s on 70 carries. Junior Brison Cobbins has done a lot of the work on the ground for the Stags, having rushed for 1,168 yards on 183 carries and 20 TD’s. Cobbins has had five games of 100 yards or more on the ground.

Senior Dylan Downing has been everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, as he leads the Stags with 115 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery.

Semrad on the other hand has thrown for 1,819 yards on 149 completions, 16 TD’s and 10 INT’s in his first year as the starting quarterback for the Lions. Senior Ben Bannister is the guy the Lions go to on the ground, as he’s rushed for 1,114 yards on 167 carries and 12 TD’s. Bannister also has five games of 100+ rushing yards.

Junior Dhimani Butler is leading a well-balanced Lions defense with 97 tackles to go along with 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.

While the Stags have been known for their offense, the Lions are leaning more on their defense heading into Saturday’s game. The Lions have forced 32 turnovers thus far, 16 interceptions and 16 fumbles. Goddard’s defense has held their last two opponents scoreless in the second half and are hoping to carry that momentum into Saturday.

“I think if we can play a pretty close first half with Miege then we’ll be OK,” Beason said. “We’ve done a great job of playing well defensively in the second half over the last two weeks, so we’ve just got to keep it close until halftime and we’ll have a chance. If there’s any team that I want out there to have a chance on Saturday, it’s the team I will bring with me to war.”

Holmes has been extremely proud with how his team handled the adversity early in the season after losing to Rockhurst (Mo.), a game that ended the Stags’ 29-game winning streak.

“Our guys had been used to winning,” Holmes said. “We learned that we can learn from the mistakes we made and bounce back. Our goal after the Aquinas game was to finish the season at 11-2 and here we are with that opportunity to do that on Saturday afternoon.”

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