RE/MAX Big 3 Games of the Year

By PrepsKC staff
Posted: December 13, 2015 - 11:01 AM

Kearney 17, Webb City 14
Class 4 State Championship Game
Nov. 27 at the Edward Jones Dome

With their backs against the wall, with no room left to give, and with the odds against them, Kearney found a way to do the seemingly impossible.

The Bulldogs notched their first state championship win since 2009 with a 17-14 win over Webb City in the Missouri Class 4 Show-Me Bowl. Kearney used four turnovers, including one in a goal-line stand in the closing seconds of the game to snap the Cardinals 32-game win streak and string of five state championships.

“With Webb City you have to match their physicality. I think we did that today,” Kearney head coach Greg Jones said. “

Quarterback Logan Hinck logged 167 total yards, 99 on the ground, and tossed a touchdown pass in the win while Cole Garrett registered nine tackles and one for a loss.

“You can’t even describe it,” Garrett said of winning a state title. “Definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of; the most prestigious for sure.”

Odessa 21, Oak Grove 14
Sept. 18 at Oak Grove Stadium

As Odessa kept mowing through opponents with ease this season, cruising to a 4-0 record, they kept an eye on those state rankings. And each week, the Bulldogs were left off.

They realized they needed to open some eyes. They needed to get that statement win, a win that would make people sit up and take notice.

They did just that Friday night.

The Bulldogs improved to 5-0 by defeating rival, previously unbeaten and second-ranked Oak Grove on its home field Friday night in thrilling fashion, 21-14.

"This is huge for our program,” wide receiver Josiah Bennett said. "We kept not getting any votes (in the state rankings). Coach was putting that chip on our shoulder.”

An emotional Mark Thomas, Bulldog head coach, echoed that statement after the victory.

"I’m in the middle of my third year here and I keep telling the kids, we’ve got to go beat somebody that outsiders don’t think we can beat,” Thomas said. "The kids stepped up when they needed to.”

The game-winning drive started with just 46 seconds left in the game and the Bulldogs needing to go 60 yards for a score. Sandwiched around an incompletion, quarterback Ty Wagner had a pair of 12-yard completions to get things going before Thomas elected to use the team’s final timeout.

The one incompletion on the drive was to Bennett, who stands at 6-feet-7 inches tall, a matchup nightmare. Wagner had taken several shots throughout the game down the field to Bennett with varying success, but with the game on the line, the pair hooked up one last time for a 36-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead with 10 seconds left.

"He has so much faith in me,” Bennett said of Wagner. "I love this kid. We’ve been playing together since we were little, ever since 3rd grade. … (The cornerback) slipped and fell. It was a heck of a throw."

"Someone told me once that in big moments, players make big plays,” Wagner said. "Before that drive started, I realized that I had to go make a big play.”

The touchdown sealed the school’s first win over Oak Grove since 2010, something that clearly resonated with both seniors and their coach.

Park Hill 10, Liberty North 7
Class 5 District 8 Semifinal
Oct. 30 at Park Hill District Stadium

Park Hill has put up some very impressive numbers offensively this season.

However, after finding themselves in a position they had rarely been this season, it was the Trojans' defense coming up clutch as they ended Liberty North's season for the second straight year with a 10-7 in Class 5 post-season action.

Park Hill got on the board first with a 35-yard field goal by Parker Sampson at the 8:57 mark of the first quarter.

The Trojans remained in front for the rest of the half and looked as if they would take a slim margin into the break.

However with just 56 seconds left in the second Park Hill fumbled an exchange and North's Michael Neisler scooped and scored from 20 yards out to put the Eagles up 7-3.

Park Hill had a chance to cut the lead to one in the final seconds, but the 22-yard FG missed its mark and it was a four-point lead for the Eagles at halftime.

After falling behind late in the first half and trailing for most of the third quarter, Park Hill needed a spark and they got one.

The Trojans took over at their own 11 and played smash-mouth football, methodically driving down the field on an 89-yard drive. The possession ended with senior running back Zach Neal plunging into the end zone to put Park Hill on top 10-7 with 1:30 left in the quarter.

The Trojans tried to put the game away on their next drive, but a delay of game penalty followed by a fumble on a punt attempt gave North life with 6:39 to play.

Starting at their own 37, the Eagles converted a fourth-and-4 at the 3:33 mark before setting up first-and-goal less than one minute later. But that would be as close as North (8-3) would get. The Trojans were up to the challenge, stopping the Eagles on four consecutive running plays from the 2-yard line to capture their 10th win in a row.

Eudora 60, Basehor-Linwood 59 2OT
Class 4A-I Quarterfinals
Nov. 13 at Basehor-Linwood Stadium

When the final point sailed through the uprights, the Eudora players, cheerleaders, and fans streamed out onto the field at Basehor, euphoric, exhausted and also a bit relieved. The Cardinals had just outlasted a resilient Basehor-Linwood team 60-59 in double overtime to advance to the state semifinals against Bishop Miege.

“Wow, I don’t know what to say about it,” said senior quarterback Grant Elston, who kicked that game-clinching PAT. “We shouldn’t have been in that situation, but a ‘dub is a dub’.”

The Cardinals squandered a 19-point lead with less than five minutes to play in regulation. They survived not one, but two potential game-ending Basehor extra points. And they somehow got over a rough night of penalties that saw them accumulate 12 infractions for 125 yards and one player ejection.

“It’s not how you want to win or lose a game. Just a crazy back-and-forth game. Emotions were so high,” Eudora coach Phil Katzenmeier said. “In a lot of ways, it was probably one of our worst games of the year.”

If not for the superhuman efforts of both Elston and senior tailback Austin Downing, who knows where Eudora would have ended up. The backfield tandem combined for over 500 yards rushing. Elston carried the ball 29 times for 320 yards and three scores. Downing, no less impressive, totaled 15 carries for 192 yards and five touchdowns.

And it was still barely enough.

“This senior class—my class—we’ve always been fighters. We got down tonight, our backs were against the wall. We could have easily quit, but our coaches kept on us and we came through,” Downing said.

With about five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, though, that sentiment could easily have been applied to the other sideline. The Bobcats had floundered offensively in the first half and found themselves down 19 with just about 4:30 to go.

But then junior quarterback Justin Phillips found Nick Fisher in the back of the end zone, and the Bobcats found themselves within striking distance down 47-34.

Basehor quickly recovered an onside kick and on the very next offensive play, Phillips again heaved it towards the end zone and connected with a falling-down Jackson Brimblecom. A successful extra point made it 47-41.

“We had desperation. We started to wear them down in the secondary,” said Basehor coach Rod Stallbaumer. “They played a bit more passive and didn’t send as much pressure. We had to throw it and we have some talented guys who can make some plays.”

Phillips would end his remarkable night 27-of-43 for 352 yards through the air and six touchdown tosses (to four different receivers) to go with 57 yards rushing and a running score.

Both Brimblecom and Fisher finished with over 100 yards receiving.

With the down only a score, Eudora recovered the next onside kick in Basehor territory with just over four minutes to play. The Cardinals put together what, at the time, appeared to be a game-sealing drive, cobbling together seven plays and marching all the way down to the Bobcat two before turning it over on downs.

Basehor, down 47-41, had 98 yards to go with 1:21 on the clock and no timeouts.

Phillips conducted the drive of the season. Picking apart the Eudora secondary he blithely led the Bobcats down the field, working the sideline and snapping the ball with alacrity. He finished the drive 7-of-10 and hit a leaping Eric Scott in the end zone with the tying score with three seconds to spare.

But the Bobcats muffed the extra point. Overtime.

“Extremely proud of this group for fighting, kept plugging away. Very proud of the resiliency. But we had our chances. It’s very frustrating to not take advantage of those opportunities,” Stallbaumer said.

Downing scored for Eudora on the first play of the first overtime. But Basehor blocked the extra point.

On the matching possession in overtime, Phillips tied it with a six-yard toss to Brimblecom. On the cusp of victory again, Basehor missed yet another extra point.

In total, the teams would combine to miss five extra points, in addition to failing to convert two two-point conversion attempts.

In the second overtime, Basehor took the lead—its first since being up 14-7 back in the first quarter on an 82-yard pick-six by Scott—when Phillips scrambled out of trouble and found an open Jackson Sherley.

Having scrubbed two critical extra points already, Basehor opted for a two-point try and failed to convert.

Down 59-53, Eudora knew what they needed to do: score and secure the extra point.

“That comes down to senior leadership,” Katzenmeier said. “We’re not out on the field with them. All we can do is talk to them. They have to make the plays. And they eventually did.”

Elston, so integral to Eudora’s win, still looked a bit dumbfounded in the moments immediately afterwards, surround by grinning family and starry-eyed teammates.

“We’ve been working God knows how long for this moment. So win or lose, go out and play your hardest, that’s what we were thinking,” he said.

It’s a game—and an extra point—he’s likely to not soon forget.

Blue Valley North 28, Blue Valley 27
October 2 at Blue Valley High School Stadium

Blue Valley North would not go away -- not this team, not this night.

Since before the new millennium, Blue Valley had not lost to the Mustangs on the gridiron and if it ever was a rivalry, there wasn’t much left of it these days between the eldest of the Blue Valley’s.

But as the closed fists of Charlie Brock pumped through the air moments after corralling a lofted touchdown pass from quarterback Joey Dolan with 22 seconds remaining on the scoreboard, an uncontrollable hysteria let loose.

The rivalry is back, the Mustangs are for real, and the streak is over. Oh, and the Eastern Kansas League title may soon have a new home after Blue Valley North stunned Kansas Class 6A No. 2 Blue Valley 28-27 in thrilling fashion.

“We believe we can win,” Blue Valley North head coach Andy Sims said amidst the post-game jubilation. “I think our guys are done, you know, being a doormat. They’re hungry and they want to win, so my job is pretty simple in that regard.”

“Our hard work comes from the offseason and what we do daily. I’ve said from day one- you work on the little things and big things happen. That’s what you saw tonight. “

Big things indeed.

Down 27-10 after an 11-yard Will Evans touchdown run, Blue Valley North had less than 10 minutes remaining to rewrite history. Thanks to some early success though, it wasn’t a deficit too large for the upstart offense.

“Well the running game at the start was clicking and that helped us run some play action,” recalled Dolan, the Mustang’s heroic star, afterwards. “We were just working the short passing game and the running game to move the ball down the field and, actually, we left some points on the board.”

Teaming up with fellow senior Cooper Lantefield in the backfield, Dolan and the Blue Valley North offense were able to wear down the Tigers defense from the opening snap. Lantefield, whose 64 rushing yards largely came on the team’s first two possessions, paved the way for the Mustangs special evening in the beginning, bursting into the end zone from eight yards out to go up 7-0 late in the first quarter. And although the offense wasn’t able to add to the scoreboard again until a short, fourth-quarter field goal with 11:50 left made it 21-10, Blue Valley head coach Eric Driskell knew the opposing offense had something going on Friday.

“They’re a good football team and they made a lot of good plays,” said Driskell. “We’ve got to finish drives and we’ve got to get our defense off the field, but they made more plays than we did in all three phases of the game. That’s the biggest difference.”

Tiger quarterback Colton McCumber, who finished with 134 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, did all he could to single handedly jumpstart what was a bland offensive night for Blue Valley overall. For once though, it wouldn’t be McCumber stealing the headlines but instead Dolan’s magician-like elusiveness with fans flocking for the exits.

“He embodies what a lot of our guys have and that is a ton of heart,” says Sims. “There were a lot of personal fouls where he took some shots but he just kept going because he has that will to win. You can’t coach that. It’s nothing I’ve done, that’s just Joey.”

Even with the late lead, the added pressure Blue Valley sent on defense was indicative of the ability they knew Blue Valley North’s veteran leader possessed. Continuously extending plays by alluding Tiger defenders, Dolan connected first with junior Sam Shortall at the 5:28 mark of the final quarter to give the visitors life. Then, with 1:15 left on the clock, it was Dolan again hooking up with his favorite target on the night, senior Charlie Brock, zipping a red-zone pass through the outstretched arms of a leaping defender and bring the Mustangs within five at 27-22.

Lining up for an onside kick, Blue Valley North had to secure the ball in order to stay alive. They’d come too far to turn back now. Thanks to perfect execution, they brought in the pigskin clean, giving their magic man under center one more chance to pull off a miracle.

“When we got the onside kick, I told everyone, ‘We are going to win this game’,” Dolan said after his 274-yard passing night. “There was no doubt in my mind. We were going to win this game.”

Repeatedly scrambling for life on the final drive, Dolan located receivers against the sideline and put the Tigers on their heels. That is until the Brock broke loose from coverage and ran down a falling toss from Dolan at the pylon. Cue madness.

“If it hasn’t already, I hope this puts us on the map a little bit,” finished Dolan, a crowd of navy clad supporters suffocating the locker room doors he stands outside of. “We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder and we’re underdogs every game. We just love proving people wrong.”

Lawrence 31, Olathe North 28
October 24, at Lawrence Stadium

The two teams with a combined 18 state titles in the past 30 years have been through quite a few battles, but nothing quite like the epic showdown of two of the last couple of remaining unbeaten teams on Friday night.

Not sure if anyone has seen anything like this in the past.

Olathe North charged back from a 17-point deficit in the final five minutes, only to see Lawrence rip victory from their hands with a touchdown with four seconds remaining.

The 31-28 win helps keep the top team in the state unbeaten and on a collision course with a district title.

The loss is North’s first and leaves them shaking their heads and wondering what might have been.

“That was a crazy game,” Lawrence quarterback Alan Clothier said. “I am speechless, really.”

Clothier took his Lions down the field in less than a minute after North had scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:02 to play. They first converted a huge third down with a Clothier to J’Mony Bryant connection that put them deep in the Eagles end with 30 seconds to play.

Then, on fourth down, Clothier dropped back and floated a pass to the left corner of the end zone where Luke Padia was waiting to cradle the eventual game winner.

“I knew we had one last shot,” Clothier said. “I was a little shaky, but it was just the perfect play at the perfect spot.”

They had tried the exact same play just two plays earlier, but the pass sailed out of bounds.

“I knew if I got on the inside of the corner and put him on my back shoulder, I knew I would be OK,” Padia said.

Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd has been a part of many, many Lawrence-Olathe North battles and can’t remember any like this one.

“Man, these were two really good teams out here tonight,” he said, shaking his head. “You know we do our two-minute offense every Wednesday and Thursday and we run it against air (no one) and a lot of times, air beats us.”

All of that work paid off on Friday.

The 26-yard touchdown was the Lions’ first points since the last play of the third quarter when Clothier’s one-yard dive into the end zone put Lawrence up 24-7 and seemingly on their way to the win.

North had other plans.

Matt Wright hooked up with Isaiah Simmons for the first of three straight touchdown passes with 5:13 to play, on a short scoring strike from seven yards out.

The Eagles got the ball back and used all of 30 seconds to cut deeper into the lead. This time Wright hooked up with Simmons from 60 yards out to pull the Eagles to within three at 24-21.

After the Eagles defense stood Lawrence up on a quick three and out, they got a little bit of help from Lawrence on the fourth down play when Clothier fielded the snap with his knee on the ground, giving the Eagles the ball at the Lions’ 35-yard line with 1:18 to play.

Two plays later, the Eagles were up 28-24 after Wright hooked up with Simmons again, this time from 35 yards away.

The Eagles then kicked off to Lawrence with 1:02 to play. Lawrence’s winning drive started at their own 41.

“We have got to respond to something like this,” North head coach Chris McCartney said. “This is a tough one to swallow, but we have to and will bounce back.”

North did a couple of things on Friday night that no team had been able to do against Lawrence in 2015. They held JD Woods in check and ran all over the Lions vaunted defense.

Woods, the Lions’ all-time leading rusher, had just 95 yards on 28 tough carries and didn’t get into the end zone for the first time this year.

The Eagles ran for 243 yards against the stout Lawrence front seven and Wright passed for another 171 yards and three touchdowns.

“We felt like we played well,” McCartney said. “We were able to do the same things last year and were hoping to be able to do it again tonight.”