Pete Logan
Special to The Gardner News
For the third week in a row, the Gardner-Edgerton High School football team posted at least 50 points against a Sunflower League foe and claimed their third consecutive victory, a 56-14 pounding of Shawnee Mission Northwest Friday night at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.
The Trailblazers piled up 471 yards of rushing and 502 yards of total offense in moving to 6-1 on the season. The game was played with a running clock after a Blazer 3rd quarter score gave the home team a 42-point advantage with 7:39 left in the period.
The Cougars provided a unique challenge for the Blazers, as the visitors were a team that passed on 85% of their offensive plays.
Earlier this season, Northwest junior quarterback Ty Black had completed 26 of 28 passes in a dominating win over Shawnee Mission East. Still, it was a task that the Trailblazers were ready for.
“Defensively,” said GEHS head coach Ryan Cornelsen after the game, “it’s a tall task. We don’t see that in high school that much. They’re able to throw that many different route combinations at you, that many different screens, and those things. There’s no doubt it was a tough task for our defense. We had a few breakdowns early, but I feel like we settled in, and we played pretty well.”
It was an auspicious beginning for the home team.
After Northwest won the opening coin toss, the Cougars elected to defer to the 2nd half and began the game by kicking off to the Trailblazers. GEHS senior defensive back Austin Oldham fielded the kick at the right hash of the 10-yard line, cut back all the way across the field, and followed his blockers for a 90-yard return for a touchdown. Though the ensuing GEHS extra point attempt was missed, the Blazers held a 6-0 lead just 16 seconds into the contest.
Gardner-Edgerton forced Northwest to turn the ball over on loss of downs on the Cougars’ first possession, giving GEHS the ball at the 50-yard line. It took just one play for the Blazers to score their next touchdown.
Senior quarterback Teven McKelvey took a read-option carry to the right and sprinted 50 yards to paydirt and a 12-0 GEHS lead. McKelvey then connected with senior quarterback/wideout Tyler Goetzmann on a 2-pt conversion pass, and the Trailblazers led 14-0 with 10:28 still left to play in the 1st quarter.
However, the Cougars were out to prove they would not be dismissed easily. On Northwest’s next possession, Black connected with senior wide receiver Ty Lindenman for a 47-yard touchdown pass over the middle. After sophomore kicker Sam Vossen kicked through the extra point, the score was 14-7 Blazers with 9:45 still to play in the first quarter.
But the Cougars could not stop the GEHS offense. On their next possession, the Blazers went 80 yards in just 4 plays. The key play was a 68-yard crossbuck carry from right to left by senior tailback TayeZhan Crough down to the Northwest 4. From there, Gardner-Edgerton senior fullback Jacob Butash blasted into the end zone on the next play. With the extra point from junior kicker Caleb Calvin, the Blazers were up 21-7 with 7:44 left in the 1st quarter.
The Blazers forced another turnover-on-loss-of-downs on the Cougars’ next possession and took over on the GEHS 21. This time, the Trailblazers embarked on a more traditional 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive that was capped off when McKelvey took a read-option carry to the left, broke several tackles, and ran 17 yards for the fourth Gardner-Edgerton TD of the quarter.
With the Calvin PAT, the Blazers took a 28-7 lead into the 2nd quarter.
After forcing the Cougars to punt with their first offensive possession of the 2nd period, the Blazers took over on their own 17. It took just two plays for McKelvey to strike again. On 2nd-and-10 from the Trailblazer 17, McKelvey took a read option carry around the left side of the Blazer line and sprinted 83 yards for his 3rd TD of the game and a 35-7 Blazer lead with 10:31 left in the half.
Northwest would answer this time with a 7-play, 84-yard scoring drive that was punctuated when Lindenman took a shovel pass from Black and went 15 yards for the Cougars final touchdown of the game. With the Vossen extra point, Northwest had made the score 35-14 with 7:57 left in the 2nd quarter.
On the game’s next play, Oldham took the Northwest kickoff on the Blazer 16 and returned it 32 yards to the GEHS 48. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Cougars tacked on 15 more yards, giving the Trailblazers a 1st-and-10 at the Northwest 37. 8 plays later, senior fullback Keith Brown bulled in from the 1-yard line and GEHS led 42-14 with 4:05 left in the half.
The Blazers earned the ball back one more time in the 2nd quarter, after forcing Northwest to punt. With 1:01 remaining in the half, GEHS took over on 1st-and-10 at the Cougar 48. On the ensuing drive’s third play, the Trailblazers faked an end-around play by giving the ball to Goetzmann going from left to right behind the Blazer line. Goetzmann then turned to his left, threw across his body and connected with McKelvey on the left side of the field. McKelvey then sprinted untouched into the end zone, and the Blazers took a 49-14 lead into halftime.
After Gardner-Edgerton defense forced the Cougars to punt on their first possession of the 2nd half, the Trailblazers took over on their own 38. It took them only four plays to score. Butash took a trap handoff through the right side of the Blazer offensive line and burst 30 yards for the final score of the evening and a 56-14 final margin.
After Butash’s 2nd TD of the night, both teams agreed to a running clock for the remainder of the game. It was the third week in a row in which a running clock had been employed in the 2nd half due to the Trailblazers’ sizeable margin over their opponents.
The Blazer pass defense was impressive against the prolific passing attack of the Cougars, keeping Black to just over 50% passing. For the game, Black was 18-for-34 passing for 185 yards, 2 touchdowns, and one interception. The Northwest QB was also sacked twice and had two completions for negative yards.
After the game, Cornelsen spoke of his defense’s effort.
“What we were trying to do was get some guys underneath and get some contact on them,” Cornelsen said, “so their routes weren’t so crisp. We did a better job of that in the 2nd quarter and moving forward.”
Offensively, the Blazers were once again led by McKelvey who rushed for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns on 7 carries (22.3 yards per carry) and also caught one pass for 31 yards and another TD.
Butash followed that with 97 yards and 2 TDs on 8 carries (12.1 yards per carry), Crough had 83 yards on 3 carries (27.7 yards per carry), Brown carried the ball 8 times for 38 yards and a touchdown, junior tailback/linebacker Davonte Pritchard had 3 carries for 38 yards (12.7 yards per carry), sophomore tailback Tyler Butash had 4 totes for 35 yards, and sophomore tailback Lucas Anderson had 11 yards on 2 carries.
Defensively, the Blazers were led by junior linebacker Adam Callahan who continued his torrid play with a sack and 2 ½ tackles-for-loss, followed by senior linebacker Preston Rohr with an interception and a pass breakup.
Oldham was the game’s special team’s star with a 59.5-yard kickoff return average to go with his KO return for a touchdown.
The Trailblazers will finish regular season play at Shawnee Mission West next Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7:00 P.M.