Blue Valley breaks the streak

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 21, 2015 - 12:07 AM

Blue Valley faced adversity a couple of times this season.

And the Tigers faced some adversity Friday night in the Class 6A sub-state final against Olathe North.

Just like they had throughout the season, the Tigers came roaring back, slapping adversity in the face. Thanks to a monsoon of a run midway through the second half, the Tigers are headed to the Class 6A state title game for the first time in school history thanks to a 43-19 win over North at Blue Valley Friday night.

The six-time Class 5A state champs become the first non-Sunflower League team to advance to the Class 6A title game since the state started hosting a title game back in 1969.

“This is amazing,” Blue Valley quarterback Colton McCumber said. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was in second grade. I’ve been coming to Blue Valley games as long as I can remember. It’s just hard to believe.”

The Tigers lost two games in a row after a 4-0 start this year, then lost their starting running back at the start of the state playoffs.

And on Friday, North jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead and then came back to take a 19-14 lead in the third quarter.

The Tigers never blinked.

“We talk with the kids every single day about chopping wood and carrying the water,” Blue Valley head coach Eric Driskell said. “This team plays with such character and play every single play like it’s their last and that’s what we did tonight.

“We’ve faced adversity at different time this season and have battled through it each and every time. This team is just so resilient.”

After North went up 19-14 early in the third quarter, Blue Valley turned it on. And never let up. The Eagles go that margin when quarterback Matt Wright hooked up with Isaiah Simmons for the second time, this time from 32 yards out just three minutes into the second half.

Blue Valley took the ensuing kickoff and just jammed it down the Eagles throat play after play, marching 85 yards with ease to reclaim the lead 20-19.

The Tigers upped the lead to 27-19 when they turned a North fumble into a Williams Evans 12-yard touchdown run. The Tigers would then add 16 more points over the next three minutes, turning a one-point lead 1:48 left in the third quarter into a 43-19 lead with just two minutes gone in the fourth quarter.

The backbreaker came on a spectacular 30-yard run by McCumber with 1:48 left in the third quarter that put Blue Valley up 27-19.

“I pulled a read option to the right,” McCumber said. “And the outside linebacker came up on my about four yards deep. I just stuck my arm out, got by him and trusted my wheels.”

He cut back against the grown to the left and scored, weaving his way through the North defense.

All of the Tigers were rusting their wheels on a misty Friday evening. They rushed for 260 yards — including 189 from Williams Evans — and McCumber also passed for another 179.

After McCumber went in from 30 yards out, Wright was sacked in the end zone for a safety.

Less than a minute later, Evans burst up the middle untouched and scored from 56 yards away. Before the Eagles knew what hit them, they were down 43-19 after leading 19-14 just 10 minutes earlier.

“We stopped them a few times, but then we would let them go,” North head coach Chris McCartney said.” Then we just seemed to get away from what had been so successful for us — being consistent.”

North got in the board first, turning a short field into a touchdown. They took over at the Tigers’ 42 and scored seven plays later on a 1-yard run by Vinnie Shabazz.

For the next 10 minutes or so, it was all Blue Valley. The Tigers answered with a nine-play, 72-yard drive. McCumber connected with Gus Gomez from 20 yards out. They scoring pass came two plays after a William Evans 18-yard scoring run was called back on a motion penalty.

The Tigers then doubled their lead with just seconds gone in the second quarter as McCumber hooked up with Taylor Debey from 16 yards out to go up 14-7.

The Eagles were finally able to get back in the game about five minutes later when Jake Campbell jumped in front of a McCumber pass and intercepted the pass, setting North up with a first down at their own 47. Three plays later, Wright hooked up with Simmons on a beautiful 33-yard touchdown pass. The talented wide out grabbed the ball in stride at the goal line in the middle of three defenders. A missed extra point following the touchdown left the Eagles down 14-13 at the half.

The loss for North was just their second of the season and the loss in the sub-state final marked the third straight year that the eight-time state champs have lost one game short of the state championship game.

“I am so proud of these kids,” McCartney said. “Just so proud. They bought in this year and really played hard all year.”