Stunner in the valley
By Matt Mitchell PrepsKC Staff Writer
This was the game everyone circled when the Kansas Class 5A playoff bracket was released. It didn't disappoint.
Kyle Zimmerman threw six touchdown passes as Blue Valley held on for a 45-42 victory over Gardner-Edgerton to advance to the state championship game Nov. 27 against Wichita Bishop Carroll.
Gardner Head Coach Marvin Diener was so impressed with Blue Valley, he addressed the Tigers as a team after the game.
“That was one of the best games I've ever been a part of,” Diener told the Tigers.
The game was full of ebbs and flows, momentum swings and turnarounds, but surprisingly, only one lead change. Every time Gardner started a comeback Zimmerman and the Tigers were there for the answer.
“We wanted to come out here and shock the world,” Zimmerman said. “And that's what we did.”
After Gardner quarterback Bubba Starling rumbled 79 yards on the first play from scrimmage to make it 7-0, Blue Valley's offense took over.
And their defense did something they couldn't do in the first game between the teams, get a stop. The Blazers, who won the first match up in district play 42-21, lost two fumbles, threw an interception and were stopped on two fourth down conversions.
That would be all Zimmerman and the Blue Valley offense would need. Jacob McDermott, who caught five of Zimmerman's touchdowns, scored from 49 yards out with 2:54 to play in the fourth quarter to make it 45-35, seemingly putting the game out of reach.
But Gardner came back, as they had all game. Threatening to score on the 15-yard line, Starling went down with a leg injury, but the Blazers didn't miss a beat. Tanner Webb came in for Gardner and hit Ryan Goetzmann for a touchdown to make it 45-42 with 1:21 to play.
Then P.J. DeBey had maybe his biggest catch of the season, and it wasn't the other end of a Zimmerman pass. It was Luis Avila's onside kick attempt. With only one timeout to call, Gardner couldn't stop Blue Valley from milking the clock, and taking the victory.
Blue Valley made adjustments offensively and defensively from the previous matchup. It worked.
“We did a few things differently lining up before the snap,” Tigers linebacker Hayden Murray said, “to give us some better angles.”
Zimmerman went for 318 yards on 18-28 passing and those six touchdowns. But seemingly each time he would strike, Starling would strike back. Bubba had 401 yards on 29 carries and five scores, but it wasn’t enough.
“We knew they were going to get theirs,” Blue Valley Head Coach Eric Driskell said. “We knew, what we had to do offensively, was to get out there and score some points on them”
That they did.
Perhaps the most important play came early in the third quarter. Leading 31-21, and possessing the ball first in the second half, Blue Valley went three-and-out. But Austin Goldsmith muffed the ensuing punt. McDermott recovered deep in Blazer territory.
Then Zimmerman hit McDermott for a 21 yard score to make it 38-21 with 8:38 to play in the third.
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