Special to The Gardner News
It didn’t take long for Gardner-Edgerton to score in their rain-soaked season debut against state power Blue Valley
Sophomore Anthony Smartt made a scintillating 95-yard opening kickoff run to paydirt to put the Blazers on top early in the fray.
On the subsequent two point attempt, junior quarterback Jared Hobbe waltzed into the end zone untouched to put GE up 8-0. Hobbe’s run would turn out to be the difference in the game as the Blazers wound up edging the Tigers 8-6.
In absolutely horrible conditions-torrential rains and a violent, unforgiving wind, the two teams had no chance to do much offensively-turning this into a game of survival.
That offensive malaise could also be attributed to a pair of terrific defenses who will most likely end up the year as two of the state’s top units.
The Blazer defense came up big all night, limiting Blue Valley to just 66 yards rushing on 41 attempts, allowing just one pass completion and forcing five turnovers.
The first of those turnovers came early in the contest when the Tigers were deep in enemy territory after recovering a fumble. Senior Riley Craig ripped the ball out of a BV runner’s hand and rambled 58 yards to the Tiger 40.
But the GE offensive just couldn’t get it rolling, hamstrung by the horrible conditions and a slick football.
Blue Valley would finally find the end zone at the 2:42 point of the second period, narrowing the margin to 8-6. The Blazers thwarted the two-point conversion try, stopping the Tigers just short of the goal line.
In the third quarter, the GE defense forced four turnovers- Matt Plank and Max Knorr recovered fumbles and Tommy McLennan had a fumble recovery and a leaping interception.
The terrific play by Kris Henry’s defensive group gave the Blazer offense great field position with the wind at their backs.
Unfortunately, GE could not take advantage of it They got close a couple of times with one drive ending on the eight and another on the two. Newcomer Deontre Kendrick made two nice catches of Hobbe aerials to give the Blazers a spark on the two drives that almost found the promised land.
Both offenses remained stagnant until late in the fourth quarter when Blue Valley had one last ditch scoring opportunity. Taking over on their own 45 with 4:48 remaining in the contest, the Tigers reeled off two long runs to reach the, Blazer 22 yard line.
GE’s valiant defensive crew, led by linebackers Boston Scott, Denton Lawrence, Dalton Kirk, and Plank stiffened, giving up two short runs and forcing a five-yard loss. That set up a fourth down 42-yard field goal attempt which was short, giving the ball back to the Blazers with 1:48 left to play.
GE still wasn’t out of the woods yet- especially in these conditions. With the entire Tiger defense keying on Traevohn Wrench-the Blazers all-state running back, GE went to fullback Marshall Wade. After Wrench went for two yards on first down, Wade picked up nine tough yards in two consecutive carries, giving the Blazers a first down-only their third of the game-and sealing the win.
GE ended up with 34 net yards rushing, led by Wrench who had 32 total yards. Hobbe completed seven of 19 passes with Wrench catching three, and Jamain Lang and Kendrick having two catches each.
Coach Marvin Diener was very pleased his team persevered to get a hard-fought win.
“I am thrilled we played hard to the end to get a big win-a win we can use to build momentum for the rest of the season,” said Diener after the contest.
That season continues next week when GE is on the road at Bishop Miege- another state power. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.