It was once again time for Friday Night Lights for GEHS. What a blast to watch the Gardner Edgerton Trailblazers battle it out with Mill Valley Sept. 3. It was great to watch the team run onto the field, the stands full, the student section cheering, and all the athletes doing what they love….playing the game of football. Photos courtesy of photoexpectations
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner-Edgerton High School football team fell victim to their own mental lapses Friday night, falling to visiting Kansas 5A power Mill Valley, 35-14, at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.
The Trailblazers racked up 3 turnovers and 4 turnovers on loss-of-downs, to go with 5 penalties for 25 yards in a game that saw the GEHS gridders give the visiting Jaguars excellent field position a multitude of times. Still, GEHS held a 14-7 lead going into halftime, only to be outscored 28-0 in the 2nd half. The Blazers’ new head coach, Jesse Owen, spoke about his team’s 2nd half woes after the game.
“We just got rattled and lost our composure,” said Owen. “We made too many mistakes. I told the boys that was a Week One loss. A lot of Week One games are lost, they’re not necessarily won. Teams lose by making silly mistakes. We know — of the five big areas we try to focus on to win a football game — penalties, turnovers, and missed assignments are three of the five, and we were not very good in those three areas. That starts with me. I just need to do a better job of getting our guys ready to play.”
Penalties and sloppy play hurt the Traiblazers on their first offensive series of the game. After senior tailback Jake McClure took an option pitch to the right side for 7 yards and a 1st down at the Gardner 45-yard line, the Blazers were stopped for a 2-yard loss on 1st down, had a fumbled snap cost them 10 yards on 2nd down, and rushed for only 3 yards on 3rd down. On 4th-and-23 from the Gardner 32, the GEHS snap was mishandled, and the punter was tackled at the Blazers’ 17. Gardner-Edgerton turned the ball over on downs, giving the Jaguars excellent field position. Six plays later, Mill Valley junior quarterback Hayden Jay hit senior tight end Kendrick Jones on a 6-yard slant pattern for the game’s first touchdown. MVHS junior kicker Jesse Wood converted the extra point, and the Jaguars had a 7-0 lead with 3:50 left in the 1st quarter.
The score remained 7-0, Mill Valley, as the 2nd quarter commenced. The Traiblazer defense proved stout throughout the period, forcing a punt and a turnover-on-loss-of downs in successive possessions. With 8:10 left in the 1st half, the Blazers took over with a 1st-and-10. On the very first play of the drive, sophomore quarterback Colton Hawkinson (pressed into service when junior quarterback Conner Elder went out) took a shotgun snap for a quarterback sweep to the left side of the field. Following his blockers, Hawkinson found a seam down the sidelines and outpaced his pursuers to the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown run. With the McClure extra point, the game was tied at 7-7 with 8:00 left in the half.
After the Trailblazer defense forced another punt on the Jaguars’ ensuing possession, the Blazers took over with a 1st-and-10 at their own 14 with 5:41 left in the half. Using a combination of run and pass, GEHS had moved the ball to their own 48 with a minute left before the break. On 3rd-and-5, Hawkinson took the shotgun snap and threw the ball on a parallel line to his left, where it was caught by McClure. McClure then completed a perfectly executed halfback pass to junior tight end Austin Buie, who had slipped past the MVHS defense and was all alone on the left side of the field. Buie hauled in the pass and then sprinted into the end zone for a 52-yard TD reception from McClure. McClure added the extra point hat gave Gardner-Edgerton a 14-7 lead going into halftime.
The Trailblazers looked ready to keep their momentum going when — on the first play from scrimmage in the 2nd half — Blazer junior cornerback Amajea Glover pounced on a Jaguar fumble to give GEHS a 1st down at their own 46. However, four plays later — on 4th-and-1 from the Mill Valley 45 — Hawkinson was tackled for a 1-yard loss, and MVHS took over on their own 46. Eight plays later, Jay crept in from the 1-yard line on a quarterback sneak for the Jaguars’ 2nd touchdown. The Wood extra point made the score 14-14 with 7:27 left in the 3rd quarter.
On the Blazers’ next possession, two tackles for loss and two penalties pinned Gardner-Edgerton back on their 12 with a 3rd-and-25. On the next snap, the Jaguars forced a fumble and recovered it on the GEHS 9-yard line for a 1st-and-goal. Three plays later, Mill Valley senior halfback Jared Napoli scored from 2 yards out on a counter run to the left, and MVHS led 21-14 with 3:48 left in the quarter.
Later on in the 3rd, another Trailblazer fumble gave Mill Valley the ball on the Gardner-Edgerton 35, and MVHS scored four plays later. A shotgun snap over the quarterback’s head forced GEHS to turn over the ball on downs in the 4th quarter, once again giving the Jaguars the ball in excellent field position at the Blazer 33. Mill Valley would need just two plays to score to make the final tally 35-14 MVHS. On the five Jaguar scoring drives, their average starting field position was the Gardner-Edgerton 28-yard line.
After the contest, Owen praised his team’s defensive effort and Hawkinson’s effort stepping in to take over the QB duties.
“Gutsy effort,” Owen said of Hawkinson’s performance. “He did a great job. He came in on short notice, due to the starting quarterback going out. Hats off to our opponent, that’s a good team, and for a sophomore to be taking his first ever varsity snaps against that caliber of a team, he did a great job. He’d be the first one to tell you that he wished he maybe had some plays over, but he has a bright, bright future — as do a lot of our young players.”
“I thought the defense played great all night long. I thought the offense kept putting the defense in bad situations, and — inevitably — that’s going to catch up to you. I think the positives are we got a lot of young kids who were forced to play and get some experience, and there’s no substitute for experience. That is the best teacher.”
Offensively, the Trailblazers were led by Hawkinson, who ran the ball 16 times for 90 yards and 1 touchdown, while also going 4-for-8 passing with 34 yards and 1 interception. McClure added 42 rushing yards on 13 carries, 3 receptions for 25 yards, and went 1-for-1 passing with 52 yards and a touchdown. Junior tailback Kyle Oatman gained 16 yards rushing on 2 carries, while Buie collected 1 catch for 52 receiving yards and touchdown.
Defensively, the Blazers were paced by junior safety Therron Meade, who had 1 ½ tackles-for-loss, and sophomore safety Eli Blazic, who had 2 pass breakups.