Special to The Gardner News
While the Gardner Edgerton offense has recieved most of the accolades this year, it was the defense that really stepped it up in the team’s showdown with undefeated Blue Valley Friday night.
Yes, the ‘Blazer offensive juggernaut kept rolling, amassing nearly 500 yards against one the state’s best teams.
But the defensive unit was even more impressive, holding the Blue Valley High School Tigers scoreless in the last 33 minutes of the game in GE’s 42-21 triumph.
The win solidifies the ‘Blazers’ stranglehold at the top of the all-class polls, catapults the team to the playoffs as the top seed in the East, and wraps up an undefeated Eastern Kansas League crown.
With another overflow crowd on hand at USD 231 district stadium, this one started as a shootout, with the teams trading touchdowns on each of their first three possessions.
Bubba Starling got GE rolling with a 57-yard carry on the team’s first play from scrimmage. Brett Jensen then took it to paydirt, scoring on a 33-yard run. Chase Lee’s kick made it 7-0 and not even one minute had elapsed in the contest.
Blue Valley quickly countered to even the score on a 49-yard passing play.
The two teams continued the offensive fireworks, each scoring on their next two possessions.
GE’s touchdowns came on a 20-yard run from Starling and a three-yard carry from Jensen.
The two seniors were nearly unstoppable in the contest with Starling going for 265 yards on 25 carries and Jensen adding 183 yards on 28 totes.
The Tigers, relying mainly on their prodigious air attack, answered each of those scores, tying the game at 21 with 9:09 remaining in the first half.
From that point forward, Coach Kris Henry’s defensive unit would not allow another score, completely shutting down the high-flying BV offense.
Daniel Mauszycki and Kyle Pacheco played very well from their defensive line positions, pressuring the quarterback all night long and stuffing the run as well. Fellow lineman Chris Martin also looked good and made a huge stop on a fourth down play to thwart the Tigers’ final drive. Linebackers Matt Plank, Brent Bovitz, Jeff Ragland, and Marcus Williams also helped in throttling the Tiger running game, which only managed 72 yards in the game.
The secondary was tested throughout-Blue Valley put it up in the air 43 times- but stood tall after giving up the early touchdowns. The quartet of
Austin Goldsmith, Ryan Newhouse, Colton Pevehouse, and Deion Shump defended the pass well and made punishing hits when aerials were caught.
On the other side of the ball, the ‘Blazer offense would just keep rolling, scoring once more before half on a 34-yard run from Starling to take a 28-21 lead into intermission.
GE added scores in both the third and fourth periods-Jensen and Starling had the TDs- to win this one going away at 42-21.
The ‘Blazers finished with 464 yards on the ground while completing just one pass for 24 yards-Alex Knorr making the catch.
GE’s formidable offensive line of Greg Hopper, Lucas Powell, Pacheco, Knorr, Cayden White and Mason Rogers as well as great blocking from wideouts Tanner Webb, Tyler Stubler, and Ryan Goetzmen, and running back Clayton Dye made that impressive rush total possible.
“It was a great win for the boys. Our defense played the best half of football they have played all year, and our offense kept the pressure on all night-couldn’t be prouder of my team,” said head coach Marvin Diener about the win.
Next up for the ‘Blazers will be a home playoff game on Nov. 5 with against Bonner Springs. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.