Special to The Gardner News
Overcoming five turnovers, crucial penalties, special team mistakes and numerous dropped passes, Gardner Edgerton High School pulled out a miraculous 29-26 win over Olathe North, sealing the district championship in the process.
The Blazers trailed 26-14 late in the fourth period before scoring two touchdowns in the game’s final four-and-a-half minutes to post the dramatic triumph. The last of those two scores came on the 2013 version of the immaculate reception when Jaylon Radel caught a Jared Hobby aerial that had been deflected by a teammate and took it 75 yards to paydirt.
Until those late two scores, North looked certain to snare this victory behind a defense that shut down the vaunted GE running game-giving up just 109 rushing yards-and an offense that took advantage of great field position due to all of those turnovers.
The Eagles took the lead early, scoring on a 14-yard run by Venus Triplett to go up 7-0 at the 4:55 mark of the first quarter. That TD came after North had stopped Traevohn Wrench on a fourth down fake punt on the Blazers’ first possession.
Wrench had difficulty running all night, going for just 72 yards on 26 carries against the stiff North defense.
GE’s defense played lights out as well and kept the Blazers in the game as the offense continued to sputter, going three straight possessions without a first down after the Eagle TD.
The last of those possessions ended in disaster when an interception deep in enemy territory gave North the ball at the Blazer 28. Four plays later the Eagles would pad their lead on a 7-yard run by junior quarterback Cole Murphy to go up 13-0 with 8:24 remaining in the first half.
GE responded with a ten-play drive for a TD to cut the gap to 13-7 with 5:50 left in the second quarter. The scoring play came on a Hobby to Josh Lang 34-yard pass reception on a fourth and six. That was the first of four long TD passes by Hobby in the affair as the senior signal caller threw for over 300 yards on the night.
The Blazers had one more foray into enemy territory before the break but an interception would thwart that opportunity and the half ended 13-7.
GE had another great opportunity on their opening drive of the second half. After the Blazer defense, led by Emilio Fowler, Seth Pesek, Blake Goff, Tommy McLennan ,and Dustin Williams, forced a three and out, a short Eagle punt gave GE the ball on the North 42. However, an inexplicable face mask penalty on that punt moved the ball back 15 yards and three plays later, the third interception of the game gave the ball right back to the Eagles.
Five plays later, North cashed in on that turnover on an 18-yard run by Triplett to go up 19-7 with 5:33 to play in the third quarter.
After both teams exchanged punts, the Blazers narrowed the advantage to 19-14 on a 58-yard pass from Hobby to Deontre Kendrick with 33 ticks remaining in the third period. That scoring play was preceded by a fake punt run by Wrench, who picked up a crucial first down on a terrific, hard-nose carry against a defense that had snuffed the play out.
The fourth quarter could not have started any worse for the Blazers. First there was a pick six on GEHS’ first possession, which gave North a 26-14 lead. Then after a nice drive put them on the Eagle three-yard line, a dead ball personal foul penalty moved it back 15 yards. On the next play an interception in the end zone ended that scoring chance with just over five minutes to go in the game. That turnover-GE’s fifth in the contest- appeared to seal the game for the Eagles.
Not so fast. First it was the defense forcing a three-and- out. Then after the offense got the ball back, it took only two plays for the Blazers to slice the lead to 26-21 when Hobby found Wrench on a 58-yard scoring pass. Just over four minutes remained and if GE could get a stop, they would have a chance.
The Blazer defense would deliver. Despite giving up a big play on a double pass, Defensive Coach Kris Henry’s group would force a punt, giving the ball back to the offense at their own 22 with just over two minutes to play in the game.
Two incompletions and one short gainer later, GE faced a fourth-and-long, setting up a play that will long live in the history of Blazer football. Facing a heavy rush, Hobby flung an aerial toward Kendrick who deflected the ball right into Raydel’s hands. The speedy senior slotback made the catch then took it the rest of the way for a 75-yard TD. Hobby ran it in for the two-point conversion to give his team a three point lead at 29-26 with 1:57 to play in the contest.
On the following drive, the Eagles threatened to score, moving into Blazer territory on two long pass plays before the GE defense, keyed by a big sack by Folwer, clamped the door shut, putting an exclamation point on one the most dramatic victories in recent history.
Now 7-1 on the year, the Blazers next contest will be at Olathe Northwest on Nov. 1. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.