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Move the Chains: Chris Duderstadt 11/4Photo Credit: Chris Duderstadt

After getting to see two of the eight remaining teams in the 4A East play in the last two weeks, I was reminded of a recipe that seems to work very well in big games: running the ball and good defense. I got to see that recipe put to good use by Eudora in Week 8 in a 33-7 win over Spring Hill and by Paola in Week 9 in a 46-14 win over Lansing.

That’s not to say the other remaining teams in the 4A East (Basehor-Linwood, St. James, Piper, Chanute, Bishop Miege and Atchison) haven’t been using that recipe as well (I’ve seen some highlights to know that some of them have), but I’ll use this column to highlight what’s worked so well for Eudora and Paola.

Let’s start with the Cardinals. Senior running back/linebacker Brayden Beerbower is listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds on Eudora’s roster, but his frame looks even bigger with each powerful run and big hit. While Beerbower had a touchdown and went well over the century mark in rushing yards to help Eudora hand Spring Hill its first loss, his impact went far beyond his impressive stats. While Spring Hill was effective in limiting Beerbower from many long runs, the attention on him opened up the offense for quarterback Gage Hayden.

Hayden has some wheels of his own, and showed them off on a 53-yard touchdown run. He also hit Adrion Seals for touchdown passes of 23 and 80 yards in the first half. Still, the Eudora offense starts with Beerbower, which probably isn’t what the opposing defenders trying to tackle him want to hear.

The Eudora defense had some question marks prior to the Cardinals’ win over Spring Hill, as they suffered a heart-breaking 43-42 road loss to Paola. Eudora has allowed 9.5 points per game since. Kale Hammerschmidt has served as a pillar in the Eudora secondary for the past couple of seasons and has received some help lately with the likes of Octavius Lyles—who had a pick six against Spring Hill—stepping up in a big way. Linebacker Silas Etter also delivered a few jarring hits in that game. Fellow linebacker Jaden Hamm, an Arkansas commit, joins Etter, a Kansas State commit, in making a big impact in Eudora’s front seven and being a big target and blocker on the offensive side of the ball.

Eudora will hit the road to play Atchison on Friday. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to play Chanute or Miege.

Meanwhile, Paola has a big rematch against Piper this week. The Panthers won the regular season matchup, 24-19. The winner will move to play either Basehor-Linwood or St. James.

Paola coach Mike Dumpert had been waiting most of the season to see the winning recipe they had against Lansing come to fruition. The Panthers’ one-two punch of Jovanni Blackie and Layton Brandt combined for six touchdowns and nearly 280 yards on the ground. Blackie went for 200-plus yards and two scores, while Brandt sealed the deal with three of his four touchdowns in the second half.

At 6-foot-6, 195 pounds, quarterback Trey Moala isn’t easy to take down either. If the Paola offensive line moves people like it did against Lansing, Moala’s job will be pretty easy with handing it off to Blackie and Brandt. However, much like Hayden was efficient under center for Eudora against Lansing, Maola was calm, cool and collected when dropping back to pass against Lansing. Maola connected on back-to-back deep balls to Christopher Lohaus-Fast and Maxwell Douglass during a two-minute drill in the first half. The pass to Douglass was good for six.

Paola’s defense has also been firing on all cylinders since its one-point win over Eudora. The Panthers held Louisburg to seven points prior to their first-round win against Lansing. Brandt highlighted Paola’s defensive performance against the Lions with an interception in the third quarter that squashed the momentum Lansing had been building. The Paola run defense also settled in against the Lions after a couple of big early runs by Tyrone Butler Jr. Kale Murdock and Isaiah Wright were consistently making their way into the Lansing backfield.

Paola figures to find itself in another classic battle in the trenches against Piper on Friday. That battle could very well extend beyond the trenches, too. Just search for Camden Beebe on Twitter and you’ll see a 6-foot-4, 300-pound Beebe catching a pass and rumbling into the end zone. The touchdown was called back due to a penalty, but impressive nevertheless.