First time champs

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Sean Kosednar PrepsKC Staff writer
Posted: November 26, 2017 - 10:38 AM

The weather may have felt like September but it was championship time on Nov. 25 when Blue Valley North squared off with Derby in the Kansas 6A State Championship at Emporia State University. The Mustangs outlasted the Panthers 49-42 for the first football title in school history.

It looked like it was going to be a long day for North as Derby needed only five plays to take the lead. A quick three and out saw the ball right back with the Panthers.

“We knew what we were capable of,” senior tight end Dylan Freberg said. “We rallied [after the quick three and out]. There is no giving up on this team.”

The Mustangs would go on to score touchdowns on seven of their next nine possessions.

While some of his teammates may been nervous on the championship stage, junior quarterback  Graham Mertz has been here before.

“I have been in this situation twice at [Bishop] Miege, so I knew what we had to do,” Mertz said. “I told everyone ‘this is just another game’ and ‘that we had to get the job done.’ Everyone trusted and we executed.”

Mertz went 24/30 for 462 yards and four passing touchdowns. If that wasn’t enough he added a 15 yard rushing touchdown as well.

“We just had to score,” Mertz said of his game wining touchdown with 57 seconds left. “Everyone knew we had to and we made the play to win it.”

In a game with gaudy offensive numbers, two of the biggest plays were made by the Blue Valley North Defense. Late in the third quarter Derby was knocking on the door. Huter Igo looked to his left and seemed to have a open receiver in the end zone. North safety DreSchaun McCallop got in the passing lane and tipped the ball. The senior then had the presence of mind to find the ball and snag it just before it hit the ground. North sealed the game with an interception in the dying seconds as well.

“Those were crucial,” Blue Valley North head coach Andy Sims said. “We you hold on to the ball and don’t give it away you usually have a better chance to win. We were on the right side of that and today was our day.”

The biggest call of the day came just over two minutes left. The Mustangs found themselves out of field goal range facing a 4th and 12.

“There was never a question in my mind,” Sims said. “At that point in the ball game I was tired of trading [touchdowns] with them. The play broke down and the call went our way to keep the drive going.”

The call Sims is referring to is a crucial defensive pass interference call that saw the Derby defender fall down in front of the wide receiver. There was contact and the ref threw his flag immediately. The automatic first down kept the drive alive and the Mustangs scored four plays later to take the lead for good.

After the game Sims reflected on what the win means for Blue Valley North.

“We have never been a football Mecca,” Sims said. “I hope students look at Blue Valley North for what we are. We are great community and the kids we have playing football here want to play football. It means something to them and my hat is off to them. Blue Valley North is a great place to be right now.”