Pete Logan
The Gardner-Edgerton High School football team pulled off four scoring plays of over 20 yards long Friday night and scored 35 straight points to roll to a 42-7 victory over Shawnee Mission West at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center for the Trailblazers’ regular-season finale.
The Blazers racked up over 300 yards rushing on the night, while GEHS freshman quarterback Asher Weiner threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for another, on the way to the win.
After the game, Gardner-Edgerton head coach spoke about what his team was able to do well, especially in their dominant third quarter when they outscored the Vikings 21-0.
“I didn’t feel like we were playing very physical,” Cornelsen said of his team’s first half efforts. “So, in the second half, we said, ‘We’re just going to come out and do what we do and be physical’ and we played better. First half wasn’t a very good showing with anything, so it was nice to come back in the second half and be physical.”
The game got off to an auspicious start for the Blazers when they forced a Vikings’ 3-and-out on West’s first possession, punctuated by a tackle-for-loss of 9 yards on 3rd down by GEHS sophomore linebacker Dawson Williams. After the West punt, it took the home team just five plays to go 48 yards for a score. The drive culminated in a 31-yard jet sweep left carry for a touchdown by Gardner-Edgerton senior wideout Drew Cassida, who wove through heavy traffic on his way to the end zone. After junior kicker Jake McClure nailed the extra point, the Trailblazers led 7-0 with 7:55 left in the first quarter.
Yet West answered right back. On the Vikings’ next possession, the Vikings moved the ball 55 yards in just three plays, punctuated by a 27-yard touchdown toss from junior quarterback Mehki Knight to senior wide receiver Payton Moore down the right sideline. After senior kicker Jesus Campos notched the PAT the game was tied at 7-7 with 6:23 left in the 1st quarter.
The Blazers used the rest of the quarter to engineer a trademark grind-it-out drive, going 66 yards in 13 plays. On the last play of the drive, Weiner plunged into the Viking end zone on a QB sneak on 4th-and-goal from the one. With McClure’s extra point, the Trailblazers seized back the lead at 14-7 going into the second quarter.
Both teams struggled to find their offensive footing in the second quarter, but the Blazers were finally able to score with under 2 minutes remaining in the half when — on third-and-6 from the Gardner-Edgerton 33 — found senior wide receiver Ethan Reynolds with a pass on the left side of the field. It was an outstanding effort from Reynolds who ripped the ball out of the Vikings’ defender’s hands at the West 45 and then sprinted the rest of the way for a 67-yard touchdown reception. With the McClure PAT, GEHS took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
The Blazers received the opening kickoff of the second half and wasted little time in continuing the momentum Reynolds’ TD had given them. Cassida took the kick at the Blazer 12 and then went 31 yards to give Gardner-Edgerton excellent field position at their own 43. Four plays later, Weiner found junior tailback Tyler Butash over the middle for a 22-yard touchdown pass that put the home team up 28-7 just over a minute-and-a-half into the 3rd quarter.
The Blazers forced a three-and-out from West on their next possession — after McClure and senior defensive end Austin Weiner combined on a 9-yard quarterback sack — and took over on their own 14 after the punt. On the very next play, Butash took a crossbuck carry from the right, down the left sideline, then cut back into the middle for an 86-yard TD carry that made the score 35-7 with 8:17 left in the third quarter.
The GEHS defense then forced a turnover on loss—of-downs on the Vikings’ next possession, giving the Trailblazer offense the ball at their own 40. On the next play, Blazer sophomore quarterback Conner Elder took a QB sweep to the right for 28 yards. Five plays later, junior fullback Carter Dewey bowled his way eight yards into the end zone and the Trailblazers held a 42-7 lead with 4:06 left in the quarter. That would be the game’s final score, as the 4th quarter was played with a running clock due to the score differential.
After the game, Cornelsen praised the play of his defensive line, who controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night.
“I felt like they played hard,” Said Cornelsen. “They made a few plays where we needed it. It wasn’t our best showing, but I thought we executed fairly well and found a way to get it done. Now we’re heading into the playoffs.”
Butash and Asher Weiner led the way offensively for the Blazers, with Butash collecting 124 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown on five carries (24.8 yards/carry) and one TD reception of 22 yards, while Weiner was 4-of-7 passing with 89 yards and two touchdowns and ran the ball two times for 10 yards and another TD. Reynolds added two receptions for 64 yards and one TD, Cassida collected 43 yards and a touchdown on four totes, Elder notched 43 rushing yards on three carries, senior tailback Davonte Pritchard had 17 rushing yards and three carries and one reception for 12 yards, Dewey racked up 17 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, McClure had one carry for 21 yards, and sophomore tailback Zack Thomas carried the ball four times for 10 rushing yards.
McClure led the defensive effort for GEHS with two tackles-for-loss including 1 ½ sacks, while senior defensive end Hayden Dyer and senior middle linebacker Gus Davis each had 2 tackles-for-loss.
With the win, the Trailblazers finish the regular season with a 4-2 record, earning a 5th seed in the KSHSAA 6A State Football Playoffs Western Bracket.