Special to The Gardner News
Failed scoring opportunities in the red zone and two costly turnovers proved fatal to Gardner Edgerton in its19-7 loss to Olathe East High School in first-round playoff action held last Friday night at USD 231 District stadium.
Twice, the Blazers reached the Hawk 10-yard line only to come up empty each time — the first on a missed field goal and the second on an interception in the end zone.
Besides that interception, GE also had a fumble on a daring fourth down pass reception that would have resulted in a first down but instead gave East great field position.
At that point in the game-the 11:45 mark of the fourth quarter, the Blazers trailed just 10-7.
East would add to that lead after the turnover, scoring a TD with 5:48 left in the contest to take a 17-7 lead. A late safety accounted for the 19-7 final.
The Hawks played flawlessly all night, committing no turnovers and no major penalties and making big play after big play.
The first of those came on their initial possession of the game when they went 66 yards to paydirt on a simple fullback dive.
GE fought back to tie the game at seven early in the second period, when Jared Hobby took it in from one-yard out. That play culminated a 14-play, 90-yard drive. Big plays in the series came from Traevohn Wrench, who had a 23-yard run ,and Deontre Kendrick, who caught a Hobby aerial for a 25-yard gain.
Wrench finished with 128 yards on 26 carries and Hobby threw for 94 yards on the night.
East answered that drive with a 20-yard field goal to go up 10-7 with 3:36 to play in the half. The Blazer “D” did a great job in keeping the Hawks out of the end zone after they had a first-and-goal.
GE’s Justin Periman then returned the short kickoff 60 yards to the Hawk 20-yard line, giving the Blazers an excellent chance to go in front by halftime. After three runs moved the ball to the 10, the drive bogged down and GE settled for a field-goal attempt. Unfortunately, it missed and the half ended with East up 10-7.
The Hawks would get the ball to start the second half, and they put together a nice drive that reached the Blazer nine. GE’s tough-nosed defenders came up with a big third down stop and when the subsequent field-goal attempt went awry, it looked like momentum had swung the Blazers way.
On its next drive, GE used a 10-yard run by Wrench and a 38-yard pass from Hobby to Wrench to quickly move deep into enemy territory. After three more plays, disaster struck when an East player made a sensational interception in the end zone to thwart the Blazers’ last major scoring chance.
The GE defense kept playing well, forcing a punt which gave the ball back to the potent Blazer offense at their own 24 with just seconds to play in the third quarter.
After two incompletions and a Wrench two-yard run, GE faced a fourth-and-eight from the 26. The Blazers rolled the dice and went for it. It looked like the move would pay-off when Radel caught a Hobby pass for a first down. However, at the end of the play, a jarring hit knocked the ball loose and East recovered, setting up East’s final touchdown.
The stunning loss ends the Blazer season at 8-2, while East will advance to next week’s second round.
The game was also the final one for 19 senior starters who had a great season, winning the Eastern Kansas League and district titles and setting many team records. Wrench went for more than 2,000 yards and ended his career as the all-time leading rusher for GE. Hobby also set many passing records in his stellar senior campaign.