Pete Logan
Despite falling behind twice in the contest, the Gardner-Edgerton High School football team rallied against Olathe East, pulling ahead for good in the 4th quarter and coming away with a 27-21 victory Friday night at The Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center. The win moved the Trail Blazers to 4-0 on the season, their best start since 2010.
“I just think they’re starting to really believe,” said GEHS Head Coach Ryan Cornelsen of his team after the game. “They’re really starting to believe that it’s the next play that’s really important, and we can’t worry about the scoreboard. If you play as a team and keep grinding, good things will happen.”
For the Blazers, many of those good things came from the play of their junior quarterback, Teven McKelvey. McKelvey scored all four of the GEHS touchdowns while rushing for 178 yards on 17 carries for a 10.5 yard-per-carry average.
Still, it was an inauspicious beginning for the Trailblazers. Their first three possessions brought about punts and helped lead to a 0-0 tie after one quarter.
Things didn’t seem to get any better in the 2nd quarter when East took their first possession of the frame 70 yards on 8 plays and capped it off with a 13-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Hunter Thomas to senior wide receiver Ray Lewis. With senior kicker Spencer Grosz’s PAT, the Hawks had a 7-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first half.
That’s when GEHS began to find its offensive rhythm. A grind-it-out attack and 20 yards in East penalties found the Blazers with a crucial 3rd-and-4 at the Hawks’ 20. From there, McKelvey took a rollout keeper left then cut back all the way right into the end zone for the first Trail Blazer TD of the night. With sophomore Caleb Calvin’s extra point, Gardner-Edgerton had tied the game at 7-7 with 2:47 left in the frame.
A short kickoff, a respectable Olathe East return, and a 15-yard facemask penalty gave the Hawks the ball at the GEHS 48 with 2:47 left. Eight plays later, Thomas completed his second touchdown pass of the night, a 17-yarder to senior tight end Robert Kullberg. A successful Grosz PAT gave East a 14-7 advantage heading into the halftime break.
The Hawks had a chance to extend their lead at the beginning of the second half, as they received that half’s opening kickoff. However, the Trail Blazer defense created a crucial three-and-out that was sealed when GEHS linebackers Kolby Gretencord (Jr.) and Corbin Moore (Sr.) combined on a third down sack to force 4th-and-17 and an East punt.
From there, it took the Blazers only four plays to go 66 yards for the tying score. McKelvey took the ball around the left end of his offensive line and scrambled 48 yards for his second score, and — with Calvin’s extra point — GEHS had tied the game at 14-14 with 9:58 left in the third period.
The Blazers again held East to a three-and-out, before engaging on a drive that would temporarily give them the lead. Starting with the ball on their own 23, Gardner-Edgerton marched 73 yards on 9 plays. McKelvey punctuated the drive when he took a read-option keeper 16 yards into the end zone, and — at 3:17 left in the third quarter — the Trail Blazers held their first lead of the game, 21-14.
The lead lasted until the middle of the fourth quarter when the Hawks finished off an 8-play, 64-yard scoring drive with a Thomas 15-yard scoring pass to Kullberg. After Grosz’ s extra point, Olathe East had tied the game at 21-21 with 5:59 remaining.
Yet the GEHS ground attack was relentless. On only six plays, the Trail Blazers marched 71 yards. After senior fullback Jacob Hunsperger rumbled 18 yards to the East 3-yard line, McKelvey took the next snap over the goal line on a quarterback sneak. However, an unsuccessful PAT attempt still left the Blazers vulnerable with only a 27-21 lead with 3:17 left in the contest.
The Hawks took their final possession of the game all the way to the Gardner 46 where they faced a crucial 4th-and-6 with 1:13 remaining. On the next snap, Thomas dropped back, faked right, then attempted to throw a screen pass to the left. However, the Trailblazers played the down perfectly. Sophomore linebacker Davonte Pritchard swept in to pick off the pass and return it 7 yards before being tackled at the East 44. From there, the Blazers were able to run out the clock and cement their fourth straight win.
After the game, Cornelsen commented on his junior quarterback’s outstanding performance.
“We were doing a pretty good job of blocking,” Cornelsen said, “but there are times when our quarterback’s just got to take over. He did, and that’s what I’ve been waiting on, and he did it tonight.”
In addition to McKelvey’s 178 yards of rushing, senior tailback Luke Jennings picked up 69 yards on the ground on 12 carries, while Hunsperger racked up 63 rushing yards on 14 carries. In total, the Trail Blazers picked up 312 yards of rushing offense.
GEHS will next play Olathe Northwest on Friday, September 28th at 7:00 P.M. at CBAC.