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Kyle Palmer/PrepsKC

By Kyle Palmer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: November 20, 2015 - 10:25 PM



Through three quarters of the Kansas Class 4A—Division 1 state semifinal in Eudora, defending champion Bishop Miege had the ball for just over five minutes. Safe to say, the Stags made the most of it in a runaway 52-20 victory over the host Cardinals.

No single scoring drive for Bishop Miege lasted longer than 1:35. The team scored on offense, defense, and special teams, using a series of explosive plays to rack up 52 unanswered points and secure a spot in next week’s championship game against Andover Central.

“We want to enjoy it this year,” Bishop Miege coach Jon Holmes said after the win. “I don’t think we enjoyed it as much last year. We felt a lot of pressure. It’s tough to get to the state championship game, and I think these guys know that.”

For Eudora, it’s an abrupt end to a tumultuous season that ultimately must be considered a success. After starting the year with three consecutive losses, the Cardinals ripped off eight wins in a row, capped last week by a scintillating double-overtime 60-59 win over Basehor-Linwood in the state quarterfinals.

“The fact that we were successful is a tribute to [our seniors],” first-year Eudora coach Phil Katzenmeier said. He is the fourth coach this particular group of seniors has had.

“This was their year. So for them to come around and rally around this team and their parents to do the same, that says a lot about their character.”

This game began auspiciously for Katzenmeier’s crew. On the contest’s first possession, the Cardinals put together an impressive 15-play drive that consumed nearly eight-and-a-half minutes of the first quarter.

It ended with quarterback Grant Elston running in from 9 yards out for the game’s first score. Elston added the extra point to make it 7-0.

The shifty senior seemed to be picking up where he left off last week versus Basehor-Linwood, when he totaled more than 300 yards rushing.

But Bishop Miege didn’t blink.

On the Stags’ ensuing possession, they needed all of three plays and 31 seconds to tie the game. A 47-yard pass from Carter Putz to Jafar Armstrong set up a one-yard dive by running back Dawson Downing.

“That’s not the first time we’ve gotten down [to start a game],” Downing said. “Even when we get down early, we don’t panic because we know how effective our offense can be.”

Eudora turned the ball over on downs their next possession. Bishop Miege started their next drive, then, on the Cardinal 32. Three more plays and another short touchdown run by Downing made it 13-7. The Cardinals blocked the extra point, and the game very much remained in the balance early in the second quarter.

“That’s exactly what we needed to do. Control the ball, move it down the field. Even when we blocked the extra point it’s 13-7 and we have the ball back. But they are so explosive,” Katzenmeier said.

The game turned midway through the second when junior Landry Weber shot through the Cardinal line to block a punt. The ball popped into the air only to land in the waiting arms of the Stags’ John Crosby who ran 20 yards for the score.

A two-point conversion on a fake extra point run in by Weber made it 21-7.

From there, Bishop Miege pulled away with a relentless series of big plays that spanned the rest of the first half and the start of the second.

To wit: a 48-yard touchdown run by Downing; a 41-yard field goal by Jake Heyen to end the first half; a 52-yard touchdown pass from Putz to Danny Murphy to begin the second half; a 25-yard fumble scoop-and-score by Rees Alena on Eudora’s ensuing possession; and a deflating 31-yard rushing score by Murphy.

When the dust settled, the Stags’ were up 52-7 and their backups played the fourth under a running clock.

Not lost on Holmes in the offensive explosion was the play of his defense, which held the Eudora option attack to under 170 yards rushing.

“We wanted to get hats on everybody. We spent all week getting our guys to have their assignments sound. And you saw it tonight, limiting big plays. That was the one thing we knew we couldn’t do: give up big plays.”

Putz finished 10-of-12 for 219 yards through the air, with a touchdown and interception. Downing finished with 103 yards rushing on eight carries and three touchdowns.

Eudora’s big plays would finally come in the fourth quarter. Austin Downing broke loose for a 66-yard punt return score. And Elston ran one in from 33 yards out with less than 3:30 to go.

 

Though those efforts were too little too late for this game, the Eudora faithful gave their team a hearty cheer at the final buzzer. And a genuine round of applause for the defending champs as they received their sub-state plaque.

 

For the Stags, it’s now on to Topeka for the second year in a row.