Dave Switzer
Special to the Gardner News
Gardner Edgerton’s magical football season ended a game short of the ultimate prize – a state championship.
The ‘Blazers lost a heartbreaker to Blue Valley 45-43 in a 5A state semi-final played in front of a packed house at Blue Valley District Stadium on Nov. 19.
GE got off to a great start in this one using a Bubba Starling 79-yard run for a score on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Gardner Edgerton’s quarterback showed why he is one of the nation’s best prep players by finishing with 395 yards rushing on the night.
It wouldn’t be enough against a Blue Valley team that was firing on all cylinders.
The Tigers quickly tied the game on their first possession, using a 51-yard pass reception for a touchdown, the first of six TD passes they completed in the contest.
BV would score again late in the first period after stopping the Blazers twice on fourth down plays.
After the first stop, the Blazers thwarted the Tiger drive with a Ryan Newhouse pass interception.  Unfortunately, GE couldn’t keep BV out of the end zone the second time as the Tigers took a 14-7 lead.
They would not trail again in the contest.
The ‘Blazers kept battling but a pair of turnovers midway through the game would prove costly.
Starling scored TD’s on runs of six and 70 yards, tying the contest at 14 and then again at 21 at the 7:38 mark of the second quarter.
Blue Valley took the lead at 28-21 on their next possession, scoring on an 11-yard pass play with 6:17 to play before half.
GE’s Tim Seymour then electrified the Blazer crowd with a 70-yard kickoff return to set his team up in great field position.
Three plays later, disaster struck when the Tigers recovered a GE fumble.  BV took advantage of that miscue, kicking a 26-yard field goal just before intermission to take a 31-21 lead into the break.
To begin the second half, the Blazer defense forced a punt after a three and out. Unfortunately, that punt was muffed with the Tigers recovering deep in GE territory.
BV cashed in on that turnover with their fifth touchdown pass, upping their lead to 38-21.
Their backs firmly against the wall, GE responded with the type of effort one would expect from a championship caliber club.
The ‘Blazers scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to trim the lead to 38-35 with 3:54 to play in the third quarter. The scores both came from Starling on runs of 27 and one yard.  Brett Jensen had 36-yard carry on the first drive, his longest run as part of a 14-carry 86 yard effort.
GE’s defense continued to stop BV, using a big sack from Daniel Mauszycki and Kyle Pacheco to stop one drive and then some fine pass defense from Newhouse and Shump to shut down another.
However, the ‘Blazers could not score after either stop.  On their first drive, GE drove deep into enemy territory before faltering, mainly due to a crucial personal foul penalty.  Their second drive ended with an interception.
Blue Valley scored a touchdown after the interception to go up 45-35 with 2:54 to play in the game.
GE cut the gap to three on a Tanner Webb to Ryan Goetzman pass with 121 remaining Goetzman made a tremendous catch, wrestling the ball away from the Tiger defender.
The subsequent onside kick was recovered by the Tigers who then ran out the clock.
Overall, the ‘Blazers finished with 492 yards rushing on 49 attempts.  Besides Starling’s school-record 395 yards and Jensen’s 86 yards, Ryan Weber added 12 yards on four carries. The offensive line of Lucas Powell, Pacheco, Greg Hopper, Cayden White, Mason Rodgers, and Alex Knorr as well as wideouts Tanner Webb, Goetzman and Tyler Stubler were all instrumental in this team’s awesome year of rushing the football.
Through the air, the ‘Blazers were three of 11 for 38 yards and one touchdown.
While disappointing, the loss in no way diminished one of the best season’s in Gardner Edgerton football history-ten straight weeks at the top of the Kansas All-Class polls, a national ranking by USA Today and an appearance on ESPN in front of a nationwide audience were all highlights for this year’s team.