Closer, but not close enough

Sean Kosednar/PrepsKC

By Sean Kosednar PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: November 26, 2016 - 9:03 PM

It was deja vu in the 2016 Kansas 6A State Championship game, as the Blue Valley Tigers faced off against the Derby Panthers at Emporia State University. A field goal with 30 seconds left lifted the Panthers over BV for the second consecutive year 17-14.

As both teams traded punts and turnovers in the fourth quarter Derby junior fullback Brody Kooser fielded a punt at his 41 and broke off his best return of the day all the way to the Tigers’ 34 yard-line. The Panthers took over with four minutes remaining and the score tied at 14.

Kooser had four rushes for 18 yards and was crucial in getting the Panthers down to the four setting up the game winning field goal. Blue Valley’s defense held strong keeping the potent Derby out of the end zone most of the game.

“Good teams make you make mistakes,” Derby head coach Brandon Clark said. “That team was well coached and a very good team, and we were lucky enough to get that last second field goal.”

The Tigers forced two turnovers on the day and had numerous pass breakups.

“Our defense did a tremendous job,” Blue Valley head coach Eric Driskell said. “[Derby] does such a good job defending the pass, and hats off to our kids who played tremendously hard. They have nothing to hang their heads about.”

Blue Valley’s offense was never quite able to get going. The Tigers were held to only 4 yards rushing. Senior running back William Evans could be seen on the exercise bike between possessions trying to stay loose. Quarterback Matthew Dercher was pressured into three interceptions and one fumble on the day.

“They do a good job of bringing seven in the box and not letting you run the ball,” Driskell said. “Will [Evans] wasn’t healthy, so we did what we could with him. I couldn’t take him out, because he was going to give me all he has.”

A bright spot for the Tigers came as the first half was coming to a close. After driving 40 yards in 30 seconds Blue Valley found themselves on Derby’s 32 yard line with just five seconds remaining. Dercher took the snap, rolled to his right and threw the ball back toward the front left pylon where senior wideout Harrison Van Dyne was running. Van Dyne out jumped the smaller defensive back and took the ball right out of his hands. The 32 yard touchdown put the Tigers up 14-6 going into the half.

“We ran our sprint out game to the side,” Driskell said, “We wanted Harry [Van Dyne] by himself and we said ‘just throw it up to Harry, and he made the play.’”

Despite losing in the final for the second straight year, Driskell still feels this was a successful season for the Tigers.

“I tell the guys, 98 percent of the state wishes they could have had the two seasons we had,” Driskell said. “They have left a lasting legacy and of course it hurts, but they have done things that very few teams get a chance to do so we don’t want to take any of this for granted.”