By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC staff writer
Dimonic McKinzy was tired. He even admitted as much. But he wasn’t going to let down his family, which in this sense, were his teammates.
The University Academy sophomore quarterback made some key plays down the stretch – as did a stingy Gryphon defense – including running out the final four minutes and 31 seconds of the game with some huge runs to help the Gryphon’s to a 21-20 win over Cass-Midway for the Class 1, District 8 title Friday night at Center High School.
“I was tired, I’ll admit it,” McKinzy said with a smile on his face. “But it was for my team.”
“They went to a power set and he took over,” Vikings head coach Larry Burchett said of McKinzy on the final drive.
The wise-beyond-his-years McKinzy had a hand in all three University Academy touchdowns, doing damage with his legs and his arm to help lead the Gryphon’s from behind and riding high into the playoffs.
“As he goes, the University Academy football team goes,” Gryphon’s head coach Damon Paul said of McKinzy. “Especially that last quarter and a half, we were going to win or lose with him. We have a lot of confidence in him that he’ll step up in crunch time.”
Cass-Midway had a golden opportunity to stretch its lead in the third quarter with a 13-7 lead. Facing a fourth-and-2 on the Gryphon 5-yard line, Burchett elected to go for it but quarterback Taylor Ayres was stopped inches short.
“I knew right then I wanted to go for it,” Burchett said when asked if there was any hesitation. “A touchdown there puts them in trouble.”
The stop by the Gryphon defense also bailed out Paul, who also went for it on the previous possession in a fourth-and-4 situation, although that play was on his team’s own 22-yard line.
“The defense saved a dumb head coach tonight,” Paul said. “Our defense won the game. They found a way to keep us in it.”
After the fourth-down stop was when the fun started.
McKinzy engineered the Gryphon’s on a 96-yard drive, which he capped by throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Garan Johnson that saw McKinzy evade pressure, under throw his receiver across the field, only to have Johnson bail him out with a great catch to make it 14-13.
“When he made that throw all I could see was Cass-Midway picking it off and going 99 yards for a touchdown,” Paul said. “He’s got that Brett Favre, gunslinger mentality sometimes.”
The Vikings weren’t down for long, though, as Bobby Zielinski took the ensuing kickoff back 85 yards for a touchdown to put them back ahead 20-14.
Zielinski made another great play, this time on defense, on the next Gryphon drive with an interception in the end zone, only to see the Vikings have to punt the ball back a few plays later.
“We couldn’t sustain our momentum,” Burchett said. “In the second half our offense didn’t do a good job. Maybe we were a little too conservative.”
McKinzy would throw the game-winning touchdown on the next drive, finding Brian Smith on an 18-yard throw on a third-and-11 play.
This was the second straight district title for the Gryphon’s, and it was won with a complete team effort. Not to be overlooked was the play of the defense, as they made the Vikings work for every yard, especially their strong running game.
“In the first half we didn’t play very good, but we came out as a family in the second half,” McKinzy said. “The rest of the game was a dogfight. We needed to do a better job of stopping the run. The defensive line and the linebackers, it was all those guys.
“We showed a lot of heart.”
Both teams will head to the postseason now. Cass-Midway will square off against Osceola – a team they beat 32-15 in the fifth game of the season – while University Academy will play Archie, the team they lost to in the first round of the playoffs a year ago.
If both teams win, they’ll meet each other again Nov. 7.
“After tonight everybody is 0-0,” Paul said. “Last year we didn’t play University
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