Pete Logan
Special to The Gardner News
It was a game that featured a lot of everything — including a whole lot of Trailblazer offense.
The Gardner-Edgerton High School football team racked up 467 yards of total offense and 8 touchdowns Friday night as they eliminated Blue Valley Northwest, 55-27, Friday night at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center in the first round of the Kansas 6A football playoffs. The win moved the Blazers to 9-0 on the season and into the playoffs second round.
It was a first quarter Husky turnover that began the offensive onslaught for the Blazers. On 3rd-and-14 from his own 32, Northwest freshman quarterback Mikey Pauley saw his shotgun snap sail over his head. As he attempted to run down the errant snap, Pauley was pushed out of the way by Trailblazer linebacker Davonte Pritchard who then covered the ball at the Northwest 14. Two plays later, Gardner-Edgerton junior quarterback Teven McKelvey dashed around the right end of his offensive line 12 yards for the score. The ensuing extra point by Blazer sophomore Caleb Calvin was good, and the Blazers led 7-0 with just under 10 minutes left to play in the first quarter.
The Blue Valley Northwest pass-heavy, hurry-up offense seemed hard to decipher for the Trailblazer defense for much of the first frame. In fact, the Huskies appeared close to capping off a 67-yard first quarter drive with a score when — on a 3rd-and-2 carry from the GEHS 12 — BVNW sophomore running back Avion Tucker was caught behind the line of scrimmage by the Blazer defensive line and forced to cough up the ball. The Trailblazers pounced on it at the 4-yard line for their second fumble recovery of the quarter.
The Huskies again threatened at the beginning of the second quarter, but their campaign was extinguished by McKelvey who — in on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback — picked off a Pauley pass at the Blazer 1-yard line and returned it 37 yards to the GEHS 38. Three plays later, Trailblazer senior fullback Jacob Hunsperger took a handoff on a dive play and burst 34 yards down the left side of the field for a touchdown to make the score 14-0 with 9:58 left in the half.
Just over two minutes later, the Gardner-Edgerton offense took over possession at their own 24. On the third play of the drive, McKelvey found senior tailback Luke Jennings wide-open over the middle on a slip route for a 65-yard touchdown pass and 21-0 lead with 6:04 remaining in the first half.
Yet Northwest was out to prove that they would not be dismissed so easily. The Huskies mounted a drive 59 yards in 10 plays (the last 9 all passes) and scored when Pauley connected with sophomore wide receiver J. Michael Sturdivant for a 15-yard TD pass on 4th-and-10. The ensuing extra point brought BVNW back to within 14 at 21-7 with 3:02 left in the 2nd quarter.
With the Huskies set to receive the 2nd half kickoff and the Blazers out of first half timeouts, it was time for the Gardner-Edgerton offense to move into hurry up mode. The Blazers marched 63 yards in 6 plays at just over a minute and a half and scored when Jennings took a left to right crossbuck carry 14 yards into the end zone to give GEHS a 28-7 lead with 1:06 left in the half.
It appeared that would be the score going into the break, but no one told Trailblazer senior linebacker Darrin Robertson. On the very next play from scrimmage, Robertson blitzed into the Northwest backfield and separate Housey from the ball. Senior defensive end Gage Gulley pounced on it and the Blazers took over at the Huskies’ 32 with 56.
The Trailblazers then put in junior Tyler Goetzmann in at quarterback and split McKelvey out wide. The switch worked on the third play of the drive when Goetzmann hit McKelvey on a go route for a 27-yard touchdown pass at the 0:19.7 mark. The Blazers had scored two touchdowns in just over 45 seconds in the closing minute of the first half and went into the break holding a commanding 35-7 lead.
Blue Valley Northwest were determined to stay in the game. On their second possession of the second half, the Huskies scored their second touchdown of the game when — on a “double pass” play — Sturdivant connected with fellow wideout Tanner Sample (Sr.) for a 27-yard TD pass. Junior defensive back Dayvin Johnson came through to block the BVNW extra point attempt and the score was 35-13 with 8:33 remaining in the third.
Gardner-Edgerton responded with an 8-play, 69-yard drive that Gulley punctuated when he ran the same slip route Jennings had run before and hauled in a 31-yard scoring pass from McKelvey to increase the Trailblazer lead to 42-13 with 4:03 remaining in the quarter.
Back-to-back sacks by Pritchard and junior defensive lineman Atticus Ramsey eventually forced a 3-and-out from Northwest. On the first play of the ensuing Trailblazer drive, Hunsperger took the handoff on a dive left play, broke through the line of scrimmage, and then busted the run outside to go 56 yards for a touchdown and extend the Blazer lead to 49-13 with 2:14 still remaining in the quarter.
On the next BVNW possession, GEHS senior linebacker Corbin Moore burst through the Huskies’ offensive line for the strip sack. Gardner-Edgerton senior linebacker Matt Ebenstein corralled the loose ball, and the Trailblazers again had the ball at the Northwest 12-yard line.
Five plays later, on the first play of the 4th quarter, Hunsperger went over from 2 yards out. Though the PAT was blocked, the Blazers continued to put distance between themselves and the Huskies at 55-13 with 11:55 left in the game.
Due to the Huskies’ deficit, the game was placed on a running clock. Northwest scored two late touchdowns Parkey-to-Sample passing combinations, but it was the Trailblazers who moved on the next round with a convincing 55-27 win.
After the game, GEHS head coach Ryan Cornelsen spoke about what allowed the Trailblazers to take control of the game in the 2nd quarter.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out what exactly they’re doing to us,” said Cornelsen, “and it takes a little time. Our offense doesn’t look that complex, but it really is up front — figuring out what we’re seeing and who’s blocking where. I thought we adjusted fairly quickly.”
McKelvey had the most eye-catching stat line of the night. The junior quarterback/wide receiver/defensive back rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, went 3-for-4 passing for 120 yards and 2 TDs, caught 1 pass for 27 yards and a touchdown, and hauled in 1 interception which he returned 37 yards. Hunsperger led the Blazers in rushing with 164 yards and 3 touchdowns on 14 carries (11.7 yards-per-carry). Jennings carried the ball 12 times for 74 yards and a TD while also catching a pass for 65 yards receiving and another touchdown. Goetzmann was 2-for-2 passing with a touchdown, while senior wide receiver Brody Marshall collected two receptions for 31 yards. Gulley collected the team’s other reception for 31 yards and his score.
The Trailblazers collected almost equally impressive defensive statistics. Sophomore defensive back Ethan Reynolds collected 3 pass breakups, while Ramsey notched 2 sacks and 2 ½ tackles-for-loss. Moore and Robertson each collected a strip sack and 2 tackles-for loss, Gulley blocked 2 passes from the defensive end position, and Pritchard notched a sack and a fumble recovery.
The Blazers will now take on Shawnee Mission Northwest in the 2nd round of the Kansas 6A State Championship Playoffs. The Cougars came back from behind to defeat Shawnee Mission North in their first round match-up. Game time for SMNW vs. GEHS is set for 7:00 P.M. on Friday, November 2nd at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.