Pittsburg beats up on Blue Valley West
By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writer
Blue Valley West entered District action with the mindset that their schedule had prepared them for the undefeated Pittsburg Purple Dragons. After all, the Jaguars four losses on the season had come to teams with a combined record of 21-4 entering Friday night. They thought they were ready for the long-distance visitors from the Southeast Kansas League -- they were not, to the tune of 56-13 at the Blue Valley District Athletics Complex in Overland Park.
“I gotta tell you, Pittsburg is a good football team,” humbly stated Blue Valley West head coach Scott Wright. “We’re the king of playing good football teams. We’ve done that and taken on all comers this year, but I have to tell you, they fit in well with anybody we’ve played. This is a good football team. “
Over 100 miles from home, Pittsburg came out breathing fire from the start and easily improved to 7-0 on the year behind an impressive display of total control and balance across all phases.
“It was as complete as you can play,” fourth-year Pittsburg head coach Tom Nickelson stated afterwards. “We weren’t expecting that because they’ve played some really tough teams, but our kids really wanted this game.”
“They had a great week of practice and were excited to get out and play,” continued Nickelson. “We got out quick and things kind of snowballed on them early. Our kids just took advantage of the situation and put an exclamation point on it.”
The lengthy bus ride did little to slow down the No. 4 team in 5A, as within a blink of an eye the Dragons were on the scoreboard after senior quarterback Spencer Turnbull connected on a short slant that junior wide receiver Elijah Harris would take 62-yards.
After punting away their first offensive possession, Blue Valley West appeared ready to answer on the very next drive when undersized sophomore running back Jake Kidd broke a tackle for a gain of 46 yards on the first snap. However, with the ball inside the red zone on the ten-yard line, the Jaguars fumbled a first down carry and watched the heels of Pittsburg star Sherrick Rogers race for six points courtesy of the 94-yard recovery.
“We were chomping at the bits on the bus,” the speedy Rogers said after his terrific performance as a running back and safety. “Not many of us fell asleep. We were all listening to music and getting hype because I don’t think it’s a struggle for us to keep focus this year. We know where we’re at and we know where we want to be.”
While Wright’s offense would continue to methodically move the ball only to stall before scoring, Nickelson’s group quickly found ways to pour on the lead.
“I love their team speed,” offered Wright on what got the best of his EKL squad. “They’ve obviously got some weapons from the quarterback, to the way the running back ran, and the tight end is a good looking kid too. They’ve got some giddy-up and go.”
On the ground, Pittsburg’s option-style attack baited defenders to meet their doom against the dynamic athleticism of the senior Rogers, who would score twice more before the half on long runs of 73 and 80 yards.
“The offense executed great and put (the defense) in a good spot early,” said rising junior Trevor Kent, who was credited with a two sacks on the night from his defensive end position, not to mention a jaw dropping 35-yard touchdown reception over a Jaguar cornerback. “We got good push on the line because our scout team gave us a good look all week. We were putting pressure on the quarterback, forcing him to throw bad balls. He stayed in the pocket longer than we’re used to seeing, so that was fun for us up front.”
Special teams would get involved in the rout too. Already with scores on both sides of the ball, senior Zack Roark blocked a Blue Valley West punt with under two minutes left in the opening quarter, returning it nearly 20-yards to put Pittsburg on top 28-0.
Yet as elated as the Dragons are, the team echoed a similar message to the one delivered in the losing locker room, a sign this experienced bunch isn’t near done exceeding expectations.
“Our goal was not just beating Blue Valley West, it was trying to get back into the playoffs,” reminded Nickelson’s before his team’s trek back to southeastern Kansas. “This was step one and they did a very nice job, but if we go lay an egg next week this was for nothing.”
“Their goal - not the coaches goals or anything – the team goal was to get back to the playoffs and go farther than last year’s team. We have to play our best ball right now to do that and we just played our best game of the year, which is all because our juniors and seniors are setting the tone in the weight room, in practice, and on game night.”
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