Special to The Gardner News
Warning to all EKL football teams: stack the line of scrimmage to stop prolific Gardner Edgerton running back Traevohn Wrench and Jared Hobby and his posse of talented wide receivers will make you pay.
Ask Blue Valley West about that after their loss to the Blazers in a key EKL matchup last Saturday.
With the Jags committing eight men to the run, Hobby stepped up in the passing game, completing 17 of 25 aerials for 241 yards and two touchdowns to key a thrilling 27-24 victory and give his team possession of first place atop the conference.
Kudos also to coach Kris Henry’s defensive unit who rebounded from a sub-par performance last week by playing a terrific game. The defensive corps limited West’s Ryan Ralson-one of the state’s top quarterbacks- to just 146 yards in the air on 12 of 28 throws and came up with two huge stops in the fourth period with the game on the line.
Early on it looked like this contest would mimic the Miege game in which both teams combined for nearly 1,300 yards of total offense. GE took the opening kickoff and scored in just three plays-all Wrench runs-to go up 7-0 with less than a minute gone in the affair. Right back came Blue Valley West who also used just three plays to tie the game at 7-0. The Blazers answered with a quick four-play drive which ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hobby to Wrench. Less than four minutes had been played in the affair and already three touchdowns had been scored and Wrench had run for 118 yards.
But from that point on, both defenses stiffened setting up a classic, epic struggle between two teams that are on the short list of state championship contenders in their respective classes.
The Jags would only score three more points before halftime- getting a 25-yard field goal with 5:07 remaining in the first period.
GE added one more TD before the break but it should have been more. Twice they got inside the ten yard line but failed to punch it in.
The Blazers’ score came on a ten-yard run by Wrench at the 7:25 mark of the second quarter. The extra point was blocked making it 20-10.
Just moments earlier, GE was stopped on at the six-yard line on a fourth down play at the end of a 13-play drive. Almost all of the yards on that drive came through the air with Hobby hitting Jaylon Radel and Marshall Wade for big gainers as well as Deontre Kendrick on a key fourth down reception in which the senior wideout made a spectacular catch over a West defender.
Later in the second quarter, the Blazers were again knocking on the door and again it was because of a huge pass play. This time it was junior tight end Josh Lang making a nice catch of a Hobby pass and a scintillating run on play that totaled 37 yards and set GE up inside the five with less than a minute remaining before intermission. Unfortunately, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back 15 yards and the Blazers came up empty once again. The half ended with GE up just 20-10 despite outgaining their foes 300-150 yards in total offense.
It was both teams’ defensive units that stood tall in a second half that would feature just three TD’s. West scored the first of those touchdowns on a one-yard run, cutting the lead to 20-17 with 7:25 left in the third period.
GE’s only second half touchdown came on their next drive with the score coming predictably on a big-play in the passing game. Facing a fourth and long from the West 27, Hobby found junior receiver Tanner Hughes on a post route in the end zone to give the Blazers some breathing room at 27-17 with 2:04 left in the third stanza.
The Jags, who started the year as the prohibitive favorite for the 5A state crown, came roaring back. With GE stopping their vaunted passing attack- at one point in the contest Ralston missed on nine of ten passes, West went to the ground, scoring on an eight-yard run with 10:29 to play.
After stopping the Blazers on a fake punt pass, the Jags began driving once again, reaching the GE 15 where they faced a pivotal fourth and one. That is when GE linebacker Dustin Williams made the play of the game, knifing into the West backfield to stuff Ralston for no gain with just under seven minutes left in the contest.
After recovering an onside kick attempt, GE was able to chew up some clock, getting key receptions from Kendrick who would end the game with four catches and Radel who was the team leader with six receptions on the night. Unfortunately, a holding penalty wiped out a big gainer on a shovel pass and when forced to punt, the Blazers committed two fouls on the runback, giving West the ball at the GE 39 with just over a minute to go and all the momentum on their side.
But the Blazer secondary responded-forcing four straight incompletions-to sew up the victory. That secondary-Michael Corrales, Tommy McLennan, Seth Pesak, and Carson Hobby played brilliantly not only on that last possession but the entire game.
The Blazers, now 4-1 on the year and surely a possibility for a number one ranking in class 6A, will be back in action on October 11 when they host winless Blue Valley North. Kickoff is set for 7:00.