Photo courtesy of Pete Logan


Pete Logan
The Gardner-Edgerton High School football team fell victim to visiting Olathe North’s speed in the backfield as well as the Eagles’ stifling defense Friday night, as the Blazers suffered their first defeat of the season, 28-7, at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.
The Eagles piled up 337 rushing yards, with two ball carriers having 100-yard plus rushing performances on the night, while the Trailblazers compiled only 167 total yards offense while also being intercepted twice on the night.
After the game, Ryan Cornelsen, head coach, shouldered the blame for his team’s troubles.
“First off,” said Cornelsen, “that was not good coaching. That was probably the least prepared I’ve had a team since I’ve been here. When things don’t go well, it wasn’t one person or this person, it was a team — and that’s on me. Yeah, their speed hurt us and there were things that hurt us, but the reality is I failed the kids. I didn’t have them ready to play. We came off a big win (Mill Valley last Friday), and we couldn’t turn around with the same intensity, the same energy, and the same mentality, and so that’s on me.”
The Eagles displayed their scoring quickness just over a minute into the contest when junior tailback Jacob Parrish took a counter handoff to the left and stretched it to the sideline, racing 67 yards for a touchdown. After the extra point by sophomore kicker Brad Polston, Olathe North led 7-0 with 10:42 to play in the first quarter.
The Blazers responded with a drive down to the North 33 on their first possession, but — on 4th-and-5 — the Gardner-Edgerton offense could not convert when their pass down the left sideline went incomplete.
ONHS began marching their next possession down the field, and — in 4 plays — they had covered 47 yards, with a 1st-and-10 at the Blazer 20. However, Blazer senior linebacker Davonte Pritchard tackled North junior tailback Aquantez Love for a three-yard loss. Then, when Eagles’ junior quarterback Noah Palmer took an option keeper carry to the left, Trailblazer junior defensive back Jake McClure stripped the ball loose from the North QB. GEHS sophomore defensive end Ozzy Poage then scooped the ball up and rumbled 19 yards to the Blazer 44 for a first-and-10 for the home squad.
The Blazer offense responded with a grind-it-out drive that ran into the beginning of the second quarter. GEHS moved the ball 56 yards in 11 plays, with the crucial play being a third-and-12 pass completion from freshman quarterback Asher Weiner to senior wide receiver Ethan Reynolds. That combination went for 14 yards, moving the ball from the 17 and giving the Trailblazers a 1st-and-goal at the 3. On the next play, Blazer junior fullback Carter Dewey powered into the end zone. After McClure converted on the PAT, the score was 7-7 with 10:40 left in the half.
Neither team scored on their next possession, but when the Eagles took over on their own 33 with 8:11 left in the second quarter, they found their second possession of the quarter extended in a most opportune way. After GEHS senior defensive back Hayden Dyer and McClure recorded back-to-back tackles-for-loss of Eagles’ ball carriers, North faced a 4th-and-15 at their own 28. The ensuing punt was partially blocked by the Trailblazers’ punt return unit but was then touched by a Blazer player downfield. As it was a live ball, the GEHS miscue allowed North to pounce on the ball and maintain possession. Five plays later, Love took a counter handoff over the right side of his offensive line and went nine yards for a touchdown. The Polston extra point made the score 14-7 Eagles with 4:48 left in the half.
The Blazers faced a fourth-and-10 from their own 46 on their next possession and lined up to punt. However, the long snap was bobbled and finally covered by the Blazers, which turned the ball over on downs to ONHS on the Trailblazer 47. Two plays later, Palmer connected with Parrish on a 32-yard TD pass that put the Eagles up 21-7 going into halftime.
North would add a three-yard Parrish TD run in the third quarter to seal the victory at 28-7.
“The thing you can take away from this game is you can’t win a big game and then not be ready to play the next week,” Cornelsen said just after the game. “The Mill Valley game was a huge game for us, and I could tell all this week it wasn’t the same. We didn’t have the same approach, the same mentality. So, you’ve got to prepare each week, and I think that’s a big lesson learned. When things aren’t going well, you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to hang your hat on. What are we? Are we going to be able to throw the ball? Are we going to be able to smashmouth? We looked unprepared. So, we’ve got to take that in mind and come back next week and be way more prepared.”
Offensively, the Blazer rushing attack was led by Dewey with 46 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Pritchard carried the ball 10 times for 30 yards, while Weiner had 22 yards on 7 totes, while also going 10-for-20 passing with 61 yards and two interceptions. Reynolds led the receiving corps with 3 catches for 29 yards, junior tailback Tyler Butash had 4 receptions for 18 yards, and senior wide receiver Drew Cassida racked up 2 catches for 14 yards.
Defensively, the Trailblazers were paced by McClure who had 2½ tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble, Dyer— who notched 1 tackle-for-loss, a fumble recovery, and an interception, and Pritchard — who recorded two tackles-for-loss.With the loss, the Trailblazers are now 2-1 on the season.