In the driver's seat
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
What started the night as a blowout in the making, turned into a ballgame and then back into a bit of a lopsided affair.
Fitting for this East Kansas League matchup.
Bishop Miege grabbed a 20-0 lead at the half, then held on for dear life in the third quarter before outlasting Gardner-Edgerton 36-20 to improve to 2-0 on the season and place themselves firmly in the EKL driver’s seat.
The Blazers scored two touchdowns in the first 1:31 of the second half to pull to within 20-14, but Miege settled down, answered with a field goal and then extended their lead through a relatively messy fourth quarter, a quarter that featured five turnovers.
“We told he kids at halftime that they were going to come out hard and we need to expect their best,” said Miege coach Jon Holmes said. “And that’s what we got.”
The Blazers recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half, then scored two plays later on a Jared Hobby to Jaylon Radel pass. Three plays after the ensuing kickoff to Miege, Denton Lawrence intercepted a Montell Cozart pass and returned it 23 yards for a score.
All of a sudden, a comfortable 20-0 lead was cut to 20-14.
“We just had to stay disciplined,” said Miege junior McKinley Johnson, who finished with three interceptions on defense and five catches for 98 yards on offense. “We talked about that they whole game. We just had to stay focused.”
After a Colin Carter 34-yard field goal stopped the third-quarter bleeding for Miege, the Stags dodged a huge bullet with two minutes left in the quarter when the Blazers dropped a potential touchdown pass down the middle of the field. Hobby hit Traevohn Wrench in stride, but the ball glanced off his fingertips.
That was as close as the Blazers would get.
Wrench, the Blazer running back who rushed for more than 2,300 yards last year, was slowed by a turf toe injury all night and had just 17 yards on nine carries and three catches for 19 yards.
“That was huge for us, being able to keep their running game in check,” Holmes said. “We wanted to get them running from side to side.
The defense really stepped up and played well tonight.”
The final nail in the proverbial coffin for the Blazers was a 42-yard fumble return for a score by Miege lineman Jack Leslie. That score moved the lead to 30-7. Although the Blazers would add one more score, it was too little too late.
Dante Hutton added the final score on a 56-yard run with 2:38 left in the game.
Hutton finished with 166 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
Cozart was 13-for-25 for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
The Stags turned a Johnson interception — his first of two in the first half and three for the game — into their first point of the night as Cozart hooked up with Jeffrey Martin from eight yards out to put the Stags up 7-0.
“We worked in practice on his reads,” Johnson said of Hobby. “We knew that we had to do a good job on defense. Coaches were talking about that all week.”
They doubled that lead just three minutes later when Hutton barreled in from eight yards out, capping the Stags second drive of the night.
The final score of the first half came with 4:29 left in the second quarter when Cozart hit Blake Schnieders in the corner of the end zone on a nice fade pattern on a fourth and two from the Blazers 24-yard line.
The Stag defense was on its game early, holding Wrench to just 10 yards on seven carries. That comes on the heels of holding him to just 46 yards on 21 carries in their early-season matchup last year in Gardner. The Blazers managed just 52 total yards in the first half and just 17 on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Stags racked up 183 yards of offense in the first half, in jumping out to the 20-0 lead.
Neither team did a very good job of holding onto the ball all night long. They combined for 11 turnovers — six by Gardner-Edgerton, including five interceptions.
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