Blue Valley tops BV North to advance
By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writer
Seventy-Seven yards on 17 plays, ticking off over seven minutes from the game clock in the third quarter. That would prove to be the key and biggest difference in a 6A sectional that saw top-seed Blue Valley take down rival Blue Valley North, 35-14.
While the 22-yard touchdown along the Blue Valley sideline after quarterback Matthew Dercher connected with Harrison Van Dyne at the pylon is what matters most in the result, the third quarter march put on by the Tigers meant far more to the game and its final half than just seven points show.
“Yeah for sure,” North head coach Andy Sims nodded in defeat after the game when asked if the all-encompassing series deflated his team emotionally. “That’s how you put a game away.”
Prior to the touchdown, which put Blue Valley up 21-7 with 2:40 left to play in the third quarter, the Mustangs had done virtually everything necessary to put them in position for an upset.
Forcing a William Evans fumble on the game’s third play, quarterback Cole Chapman brought the visiting crowd to their feet on a huge pass-play to Payton Thielmann before tiny rusher Tony Bragulla punched in the game’s first score to give North the lead. And while the Tigers would regain the lead at 14-7 by halftime, it hardly came with ease as North forced a vaunted Blue Valley offense to punt four times and held the favored squad on another fourth down inside their own territory.
“They’re really good defensively and we knew that coming in because they have some tremendous, physical athletes up front,” expanded Blue Valley head coach Eric Driskell on his offense’s sluggish start. “We felt like we made some mistakes in the first half and I just told the guys to relax and play.”
“So that drive to open the second half was huge for us. We mixed it up, got some touches for guys and that seemed to be big for our offense.”
Senior leader Gus Gomez agreed when asked about the drive’s importance after the victory.
“We kept on pounding it, getting our offensive line in a good rhythm,” the two-way standout described. “Guys converted some plays on fourth-down which was big too because those got us in position to score.”
Not one, not two, but three times the Tigers kept the drive alive with fourth-down conversions. The first involved the bruising rusher Evans, the second a fourth-and-two completion of six yards to Blake Brown, and the final an eight-yard pick-up by an outstretched Van Dyne. A former offensive lineman himself, Driskell equates part of the game-changing sequence to Blue Valley regaining control in the trenches.
“I felt really good about (the line of scrimmage),” he said. “We were down a starter today on the line, and Ryan Peterson stepped up in his first start.”
“Things were going a little fast early for him, but they eventually slowed down. I’m Proud of him for stepping in and stepping up and I know the other guys alongside him feel the same.”
Making matters worse for Blue Valley North, after allowing the gut-wrenching score, a gassed Mustangs defense was again forced to take the field one play later after Blue Valley junior Owen Olson recovered a fumbled kick-off by the visitors. Twelve seconds later, it was 28-7 Blue Valley as the drained defense turned to watch Dercher run untouched up the gut from 23-yards away.
“I told them there at the end, this game wasn’t won or lost based on lack of preparation or motivation or effort, they just made more plays than we did tonight,” Sims stated. “My hat’s off to Blue Valley because they beat a good team tonight.”
“It’s one of those situations where an eight-win season is a magical year last season and then, this year, a seven-win season is a disappointment. But that’s where we want our program to be. We know we can do better. “
Blue Valley would add another score for good measure from Evans with 8:51 left to finalize 35 unanswered points and cement their right to continue on in the playoff bracket.
“They’re ready to play and they prepare really well,” Driskell said of his undefeated bunch. “Especially when it’s a team in your league, you come ready to play. At this time of year though, these guys have seen it from other teams we’ve had in that you’ve got to be ready because everyone is really good at this time of a season.”
As the victorious head coach mentioned, the competition for the Tigers now goes from good to better as a much-anticipated date with Shawnee Mission East looms next week for the right to return to the 6A state finals.
“I don’t know anything about them, but we’ll give them our all,” Gomez said, who was the Tigers undisputed star with a touchdown and an interception on the evening. “We just keep pushing through. We know we can do it in every game and we’ll fight until the end.”
“I know they’re really, really good- I know that,” finished Driskell on a battle with Shawnee Mission East that pits two of the area’s top programs against one another. “(Coach Delaney) and I have talked the last couple years about how nice it would be to get together and now, this year, it will happen. But we’re just excited about the challenge. The cool part about this though is it just means you have another week to be around this edition of Blue Valley football. They’re a fun group to be around and I really love coaching these guys.”
Pleasant Ridge Rams
Mill Valley Jaguars
Blue Valley Northwest Huskies
Sedalia Smith-Cotton Tigers
St. Joseph Lafayette Fighting Irish
North Kansas City Hornets
West Platte Bluejays
Shawnee Mission East Lancers
Santa Fe Chiefs
Rich Hill Tigers