Pete Logan
Gardner-Edgerton High School junior quarterback Teven McKelvey rushed for 247 yards and six touchdowns Nov. 2, as the Trailblazers overpowered Shawnee Mission Northwest, 49-28, to claim the Kansas 6A Regional Championship at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.
McKelvey led a trio of 100-yard plus Trailblazer backs as GEHS shook off a tenacious attack by the Cougars to claim the title and move on to the 6A Quarterfinals this week against Blue Valley North. The Blazer offense exploded for 477 yards on the ground and over 500 yards of total offense.
The night began inauspiciously for Gardner-Edgerton who fell behind 7-0 on the game’s opening drive when Northwest sophomore quarterback Ty Black connected on a 36-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Duke Henke with 8:13 left in the first quarter. Things seemed about to become even worse for the home team when the Blazers coughed up the ensuing kickoff return and gave the Cougars the ball at the Trailblazers’ 15. Yet a sack by GEHS senior defensive lineman Peyton Vance gave Northwest a 4th-and-13 at the Blazers’ 18. Gardner-Edgerton forced an incomplete pass on the 4th down and averted falling behind by double digits in the game’s opening minutes.
The Trailblazers didn’t find the end zone until the closing minutes of the first quarter. Junior defensive lineman Atticus Ramsey and senior linebacker Darrin Robertson combined on a sack of Black that jarred the ball loose from the Cougar QB. Robertson pounced on the loose ball at the Northwest 30, and — two plays later — McKelvey went in from 18 yards out for the touchdown. The ensuing extra point from sophomore kicker Caleb Calvin was good, despite coming from 35 yards out due to a Blazer penalty. With 0:06.7 left in the first period, the score was tied at 7-7.
However, less than 30 seconds later, the Cougars reclaimed the lead at 14-7 when Black hit senior wide receiver Peyton Carder with a 41-yard TD pass for the first score of the 2nd quarter.
GEHS responded on their next drive by marching 65 yards on 7 plays. The drive paid off with a 33-yard TD pass from McKelvey to senior tight end Gage Gulley on a critical 4th-and-5. With 8:31 left to play in the first half, the Blazers had tied the game at 14-14.
The game’s turning point occurred on the next Northwest possession. On the strength of a short passing game, the Cougars marched the ball 61 yards in 8 plays all the way down to the Gardner-Edgerton 2-yard line — where Northwest faced 4th-and-Goal. Trailblazer sophomore defensive back Drew Cassida broke up the 4th down pass attempt in the end zone, forcing a turnover on loss of downs and keeping the game even.
The Trailblazers then engaged on their longest scoring drive of the contest, going 98 yards in 14 plays and chewing up more than 5 minutes of clock. The drive was punctuated when McKelvey took the ball around the left end of his offensive line and dashed 10 yards into the end zone with the go-ahead touchdown. With Calvin’s third extra point, the Blazers took a 21-14 lead into the half.
Shawnee Mission Northwest had won the opening coin toss and had chosen to receive the opening kickoff, meaning GEHS would receive the second half’s first kick. The Cougars elected to attempt an onside kick to start the half but could not catch the Blazers napping. The Gardner-Edgerton return team pounced on the ball and started their offense out with excellent field position at the 50. From there, the offense marched into the end zone in 10 plays, with the last play of the drive being a 16-yard touchdown run by McKelvey that made the score 28-14 with 7:01 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
The Trailblazers then determined that turnabout was fair play and executed an onside kick of their own. This one was run to perfection by the kick team when GEHS sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Ethan Reynolds pounced on the ball to reset the Blazer offense at the Northwest 33. 7 plays later, McKelvey went in from 6 yards out for his fourth rushing TD and a 35-14 Trailblazer lead with 3:39 left in the period.
However, a failed onside kick by the Trailblazers (and a penalty on the kicking team) set Northwest up with excellent field position of their own at the Gardner 42. Proving that they were not just going to go away, the Cougars completed a 6-play drive (aided by 2 Blazer personal foul penalties) that paid off with a Black-to-Carder 15-yard scoring pass that made the score 35-21 just a little more than a minute later.
Yet the Blazers weren’t done in the 3rd quarter, either. GEHS moved 80 yards in just 5 plays, the biggest of which was the last one — a McKelvey dash of 53 yards on a sneak up the middle to put the Blazers ahead 42-21 going into the 4th quarter.
Still, the Cougars would not go quietly. They opened the scoring in the 4th quarter when a Black-to-Henke 12-yard scoring strike brought Northwest back to within two scores at 42-28 with almost 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
So, it was up to McKelvey to put the contest to bed. The junior quarterback opened the final scoring drive of 80 yards with a 39-yard run and closed it with a 7-yard jaunt around the left end of the Blazer offensive line to make the score 49-28 with 6:52 left.
Key defensive plays by Ramsey, Robertson, and GEHS junior defensive back Dayvin Johnson kept the Cougars scoreless the rest of the way.
After the game, Gardner-Edgerton head coach Ryan Cornelsen commented on McKelvey’s huge night.
“He knows that — in a big game — our quarterback’s the guy,” Cornelsen said. “And he’s got to make big plays. He can only do it because our offensive line is doing well.”
In addition to McKelvey’s 247 yards and 6 touchdowns on 27 carries, McKelvey was also 1-of-3 passing for 33 yards and a touchdown. Senior fullback Jacob Hunsperger joined McKelvey by going over the century mark with 118 yards rushing on 23 carries, while senior tailback Luke Jennings was the third Blazer back over 100 with 13 carries for 101 yards rushing.
Defensively, the Trailblazers were led by Vance with 2 sacks, Ramsey with 1 ½ sacks, Johnson with 2 pass breakups and a tackle-for-loss, Robertson with ½ sack, a fumble recovery, and a pass block, and sophomore linebacker Davonte Pritchard with 2 tackles-for-loss.
The Trailblazers are now 10-0 and one of only 8 teams remaining in the Kansas 6A championships. They will host Blue Valley North (7-3) in the State Quarterfinals on Friday at 7:00 P.M. at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.