Pete Logan
The Gardner-Edgerton High School football team found themselves in an offensive slugfest with Shawnee Mission Northwest Oct. 16 at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium. At the end of the night, however, the Blazers found themselves just short of a victory, falling to Northwest, 38-35.
The game featured three ties and six lead changes, and the Blazers had a chance to take the lead with under three minutes remaining, but a fourth-and-goal pass attempt from the Cougar 5 fell incomplete — sealing the victory for Northwest.
Offensively, the Trailblazers had little trouble moving the ball, but the GEHS defense struggled against the prolific passing game of the Cougars, led by SMNW senior quarterback Ty Black.
“Our kids played hard,” said Ryan Cornelsen, GEHS head coach, after the game. “We moved the ball offensively, we battled. I was proud of the way we did that. It was my fault. We should have kicked the field goal there at the end to send the game into overtime. We obviously gave up some big plays defensively where we’ve got to shore up, but we’ll learn from that.”
The Cougars displayed their quick-strike capability on the game’s opening possession. Northwest went 81 yards on just three plays, culminating in a 27-yard touchdown completion from Black to junior wide receiver Jack Meylan. After junior kicker Connor Stewart notched the conversion, SMNW had a 7-0 lead just 35 seconds into the contest.
The Trailblazers were undaunted, however, and marched 63 yards in 10 plays on their opening possession. On the 10th play of the drive, senior tailback Davonte Pritchard took a counter handoff to the right, found the hole bottled up, cut back to the left, and scored from five yards out. After junior kicker Jake McClure’s successful PAT, the game was tied at 7-7 with 6:59 left in the quarter.
On the first play of the next Northwest possession, Black was intercepted by Trailblazer sophomore defensive back Conner Elder at the Cougar 25. Elder returned the ball 3 yards, setting the Gardner-Edgerton offense up with a 1st-and-10 at SMNW 22. Five plays later, GEHS junior fullback Carter Dewey plowed into the end zone from the one-yard line. With the McClure extra point, the Blazers led 14-7 with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cougars responded with a methodical march of their own, going 79 yards in 11 plays, finally scoring when Northwest senior tailback Justin Mitchell took a pitch to the right and scampered in from two yards out. With the Stewart PAT, the score was tied 14-14 with 10:48 left to play in the second quarter.
Gardner-Edgeron started their next possession on their own 29 and in 6 plays had moved the ball to the Northwest 8-yard line where the Blazers had a 2nd-and-goal. However, the secondnd down snap was fumbled and Northwest pounced on it at their own 10, ending the Blazer scoring threat.
The Blazer defense responded by forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing Cougar possession, and a poor SMNW punt gave Gardner-Edgerton the ball in excellent field position at the Northwest 32. Five plays later, Trailblazer junior tailback Tyler Butash took a crossbuck carry into the end zone from seven yards out to give the Blazers back the lead at 21-14 with 4:42 left in the half.
Northwest answered right back, going 57 yards in eight plays and scoring when Black connected on a nine-yard scoring pass from Black to senior wide receiver Duke Henke to tie the game at 21-21 with 2;02 to play before halftime.
The Blazers were forced to punt on their next possession, giving SMNW the ball at their own 35 with 44.9 seconds to play in the first half. In five plays, the Cougars were at the Gardner-Edgerton 4-yard line. Northwest took two shots at the end zone from there but came up empty after GEHS junior defensive back tre Samuels broke up a fade route in the back of the end zone on thirrd-and-goal. The Cougars had to settle for a Stewart 21-yard field goal that put them ahead 24-21 going into half time.
Gardner-Edgerton took the ball to start the 2nd half and pounded away at the Cougar defense. The Trailblazers marched 48 yards on 10 plays and took the lead when Dewey scored on his second one-yard scoring run of the night. After McClure slotted the PAT through the uprights, the Blazers led 28-24 with 7:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Yet the Cougar offense replied with a second demonstration of their rapid response offense. It took SMNW just three plays to cover 65 yards,the last 28 of which came on Black’s second TD pass to Henke on the evening. After Northwest converted on the extra point attempt, the Cougars led 31-28 less than a minute after the Blazers had reclaimed the edge.
On the ensuing kickoff, McClure — now playing kick returner for the Trailblazers — fielded the ball at the Blazer 17 and sprinted his way down the right sideline for 36 yards, giving GEHS excellent field position at the Cougar 46. A Gardner-Edgerton 8-play, 46-yard drive was capped off by Pritchard who again took a counter handoff to the right and bulled his way into the end zone to give the Trailblazers a 35-31 advantage with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Northwest answered with an eight-play drive of their own, this one going 43 yards and punctuated when Black took a quarterback draw carry 11 yards into the end zone. The TD gave SMNW a 38-35 advantage 43 seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Blazers responded with a trademark grind-it-out drive. In 12 plays, Gardner-Edgerton had marched 78 yards and had a third-and-goal at the Northwest two-yard line with 3 ½ minutes remaining in the contest. However, a false start penalty moved the Blazers back five yards and a thirrd down carry netted them only two yards back. On 4th-and goal from the 5, Trailblazer freshman quarterback Asher Weiner threw to a spot at the right side of the end zone, but the GEHS receiver appeared to collide with a defender and could not make the catch, turning the ball over on downs to the Cougars. From there, Black was able to get his team one more first down and Northwest was able to run out the clock and secure a 38-35 win.
After the game, Cornelsen spoke about the unique challenge of facing a quarterback like Black, an Air Force Academy commit.
“I think that’s our third time seeing him,” Cornelsen said, “He’s tough. It’s always tough when you play him. They’re going to get some big plays by their style. You’ve just got to live to fight the next play. He’s a great player and a great kid, and he makes it tough because he’s so smart.”
Offensively, the Blazers were paced by Butash who collected 126 rushing yards and 1 touchdown on 18 carries and hauled in two pass receptions for 49 yards. Dewey added 19 carries for 85 rushing yards and 2 TDs, Pritchard had 67 rushing yards and two TDs on 15 totes, senior wide receiver Ethan Reynolds had one reception for 17 yards, while sophomore tight end Austin Buie had one catch for 12 yards. As the signal-caller for the Blazers, Weiner was 4-for-6 passing with 78 aerial yards.
On defense the Blazers were led by McClure who collected two tackles-for-loss including a sack, Pritchard — who also had two tackles-for-loss including a sack, and junior cornerback Lucas Anderson who recorded a tackle-for-loss and a pass breakup.
The loss drops the Blazers to 3-2 on the season.