Pete Logan
The Gardner-Edgerton High School football team scored three of their four touchdowns from over 22 yards out Friday night, on their way to a 28-26 victory at defending Kansas 5A State Champion Mill Valley High School.
Senior wide receiver/defensive back Ethan Reynolds had a mammoth night for the Blazers, catching five passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns on offense, while also intercepting a pass on defense and blocking an extra point on special teams, in helping lead GEHS to the win.
The game started inauspiciously for the Trailblazers as Mill Valley junior wide receiver Kendrick Jones took the game’s opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. After Jaguar senior kicker Chris Tennant notched the extra point, the home team held a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into the contest.
However, Gardner-Edgerton answered back with lightning quickness. On the Trailblazers’ first play from scrimmage, freshman quarterback Asher Weiner took a bootleg carry to the right side of the field, then cut back left and sprinted 75 yards before he was brought down at the MVHS 5-yard line. On the next play, GEHS junior tailback Tyler Butash took a crossbuck carry from right-to-left and powered in from 5 yards out for the score. Blazer junior kicker Jake McClure knocked the PAT through the uprights to tie the game at 7-7 just 20 seconds after the Jaguars’ first score.
Mill Valley threw the next punch when senior tailback Quin Wittenauer capped off a five-play, 51-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run on a counter play. Fortunately for the Blazers, Reynolds sprinted in from the left side of the Blazer defense to block the Tennant extra point attempt. Reynolds’ effort kept the Jaguar lead to 6 at 13-7 with 9:21 left in the first quarter.
On their next offensive possession, the Trailblazers took just 4 plays to go 80 yards for their next score. On a second-and-10 from the 50, Weiner connected with Reynolds on a pass down the left sideline. Reynolds avoided a pair of shoestring tackle attempts and sprinted into the end zone for the TD. After McClure kicked his 2nd extra point, the Blazers led 14-13 with 6:56 left in the first period.
Mill Valley then went three-for-three on offensive possessions when they took just three plays to go 85 yards the next time they had the ball. On the Jaguars’ third play of the possession, sophomore quarterback Hayden Jay hit senior wide receiver Jacob Hartman for a pass to the right side of the field. Hartman then cut back across the middle of the field and raced all the way in for an 82-yard touchdown reception. However, Mill Valley’s two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the home side with a 19-14 advantage with 5:29 left in the 1st quarter.
The Trailblazers missed on a 52-yard field goal attempt on their next possession, but seemed to find their defensive footing on the Jaguars’ next three possessions, holding Mill Valley to two punts and a missed field goal. After the MVHS missed field goal, the Blazers took over on their own 20 with 2:51 left in the first half. Gardner-Edgerton then marched 80 yards in 8 plays. On the final play of the drive, Weiner hit Reynolds with a pass along the left sideline, then Reynolds junked a defender at the 10 and sprinted into the end zone for the third Blazer TD of the game. The McClure PAT gave Gardner-Edgerton a 21-19 edge with 16 seconds left in the first half.
After the score, Mill Valley senior defensive back Cole Clauder returned the ensuing “pooch” kickoff 31 yards to give the Jaguars excellent field position at the GEHS 41 with 10 seconds left to play. But Reynolds ended the threat when he intercepted a Jay bomb at the Blazer three to give Gardner-Edgerton a two-point lead heading into halftime.
The Trailblazers rode their offensive momentum from the end of the first half into their first possession of the third quarter. After taking possession at their own 20 following a touchback on the half’s opening kickoff, GEHS seemed to be stymied with a 4th-and-3 from their own 27. The Blazers lined up to punt, but the snap went to Gardner-Edgerton senior tailback/linebacker Davonte Pritchard who had lined up at the upback position. Pritchard raced around the right end of the Blazer line and dashed 34 yards for a first down at the Jaguar 24. On the next play, Weiner spotted an open Reynolds who leaped and caught the touchdown catch in the end zone. After McClure’s 4th extra point of the night, the Blazers led 28-19 with 10:08 left to play in the 3rd quarter.
Both teams exchanged interceptions on their next possessions, which seemed to set the tone for a mostly defense-dominated quarter. The score remained 28-19 GEHS until the Jaguars’ first possession of the 4th quarter. On Mill Valley’s first play of the quarter, Wittenauer took a counter carry to the right side of the field and dashed 80 yards for a score. After Tennant kicked the extra point, the score was 28-26 Trailblazers with 10:16 left in the game.
The two teams then exchanged punts on their next possessions, but Mill Valley was granted a huge opportunity when a Gardner-Edgerton fumble gave the Jaguars the ball at Trailblazer 48 with 3:02 left to play. However, GEHS senior defensive end Austin Weiner batted down a Jay 3rd-and-7 pass, and senior middle linebacker Gus Davis followed that up with a 10-yard sack on 4th-and-7 to give the Blazers back the ball at the Mill Valley 45 with 1:46 left to play. On the game’s last play — a fourth-and-seven from the Jaguar 42 with seven seconds left — Weiner lofted a deep pass that was intercepted just in front of the end zone. The Mill Valley defenders attempted several laterals in a last-ditch attempt to score, but there would be no band on the field to rescue them, and the Blazers stopped the threat before the ball reached the Jaguar 25. With that, the Blazers had claimed their second road victory of the season, 28-26.
Besides Reynolds, the Blazers were led offensively by their freshman quarterback Weiner, who went 15-for-27 passing for 199 yards, 3 touchdowns, and four interceptions, while also rushing seven times for 83 yards. Butash contributed seven rushes for 45 yards and a TD, Pritchard ran the ball 8 times for 39 yards, junior fullback Carter Dewey carried the ball seven times for 16 yards, and junior tailback Garrett Bergman had 3 totes for 10 yards. Among the Blazer receivers, sophomore wide receiver Conner Elder had one catch for 29 yards, while senior wide receiver Drew Cassida had two catches for 12 yards.
Austin Weiner led the Gardner-Edgerton defense with two tackles-for-loss and two pass deflections, while McClure, sophomore defensive end Ozzy Poage, and Davis each added 1½ tackles-for-loss, including one sack each..Pritchard added one tackle-for-loss and an interception return of 14 yards.