Pete Logan
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner-Edgerton High School football team began their 2019 Sept. 6 night roaring out of the gate. The Trailblazers piled up 390 yards in rushing and simply overpowered visiting Shawnee Mission East, rolling to a 49-14 opening victory at Gardner-Edgerton District Activities Center.
5 of the Blazers 6 offensive touchdowns came via the run, with 5 different ball carriers garnering the scoring tallies. The Blazers also recorded 1 passing TD and 1 defensive touchdown.
“We really managed to play extremely hard and with a lot of emotion,” said GEHS head coach Ryan Cornelsen immediately after the game. “We just wanted it a lot more than they did, and that always makes me proud to see that effort in the first game of the season.”
The Trailblazers wasted no time in setting their dominant tone from the beginning. After East won the opening coin toss and deferred to the 2nd half, it took the Trailblazers just two plays to put themselves in the lead. On a 2nd-and-6 from the Blazer 40-yard line, GEHS senior tailback Reggie Dennis took a left-to-right crossbuck carry around the right end of the Blazer offensive line and sprinted 60 yards for a touchdown. Junior placekicker Caleb Calvin notched the PAT, and GEHS held a 7-0 lead after just 49 seconds of the first quarter.
The Trailblazers then displayed their willingness for high-risk/high-reward play by executing an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The ball bounced off an attacking Lancer player and into the hands of the Blazers, who pounced on it at the Gardner-Edgerton 44. The Blazers then marched 56 yards in 12 plays and made the score 14-0 GEHS when senior fullback Jacob Butash powered over from 5 yards out with 4:37 left in the 1st quarter.
Gardner-Edgerton’s final scoring drive of the first half began with 5:47 left in the 2nd quarter and the ball at the Blazer 47 following a Lancer punt. Dennis began the drive with another huge left-to-right carry around end that gained 39 yards and a 1st-and-10 at the SME 14. Two plays later, Trailblazer senior quarterback Teven McKelvey faked a counter handoff and then burned around the left end of the Blazer line for 10 yards and a score. After the Calvin extra point, GEHS held a 21-0 advantage with 4:48 left in the half.
The Lancers answered with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive that was punctuated by a 1-yard TD plunge by East senior taliback Tony Friends. The Lancer extra point made the score 21-7 Blazers, and that was the margin going into halftime.
The Lancers entered the 3rd quarter on the receiving end of the kickoff and had a chance to seize momentum, having tallied a touchdown just before halftime. However, the Trailblazer defense nixed that idea almost immediately. On the half’s second play from scrimmage, East senior quarterback Ryan Bolin attempted a screen pass to the right. However, GEHS senior cornerback Austin Oldham played the ball perfectly, snagged it out of the air, and raced home 25 yards for a defensive touchdown to make the score 28-7 Blazers just 47 seconds into the 2nd half.
The Blazer special teams, having already recovered two onside kicks, found another chance to shine almost halfway into the 3rd quarter. On a Lancer 4th and 23 at the East 22, Blazer senior linebacker Anthony Rodriguez burst through East’s punt teams defences and blocked and recovered the East punt. Rodriguez’s special teams effort gave the Trailblazers the ball at the SME 27.
Four plays later, McKelvey connected with Gardner-Edgerton senior tailback TayeZhan Crough on a seam route pass to the right for 19 yards and a touchdown. With the Calvin PAT, the Blazers led 35-7 with 4:43 to play in the 3rd quarter.
GEHS sophomore kicker Jake McClure then skied the ensuing Blazer kickoff over the heads of the unprepared East returners, who bumbled their attempts at corralling it and caused the Lancers to start their next possession at the East 4. The Gardner-Edgerton defense then locked down the Lancers, marching them backwards and forcing them to punt on 4th-and-13 on their own 1-yard line. East’s punt then traveled a mere 8 yards, putting the Blazers in commanding position with a 1st-and goal at the Lancer 9.
It took just two plays for the Blazers to add to their lead. Senior fullback Keith Brown took a counter run over the right side from 6 yards out and made the score 42-7 with 2:44 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Lancers opened the scoring in the 4th quarter with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Bolin to senior wide receiver Tommy Foster, who caught the scoring grab off a Trailblazer deflection. With the extra point from senior kicker Kiernan Kelly, East made the score 49-14 with 10:36 left in the contest.
Still, the Trailblazers had the game’s final scoring say. With a 1st-and-10 at their own 45 on the game’s next possession, the Trailblazers pitched the ball to the left side into the waiting hands of senior tailback Jacob Renaud who then sprinted 54 yards before officials said he was knocked out at the East 1-yard line. On the game’s next play, Renaud was rewarded for his efforts as he took a left to right crossbuck carry over for a score, making the finals score 49-14, Trailblazers.
Though the Blazers’ offensive numbers were staggering, the GEHS defense put up an eye-popping performance as well. The Blazer D recorded 1 sack, 7 tackles-for-loss, 2 interceptions (with 47 yards in returns and a TD), and 4 pass breakups.
“I thought our defensive backs did a nice job tonight,” Cornelsen said. “Overall, our coaches did a good job getting our defense to play downhill, and we tackled really well on a really good running back (Friends).”
Offensively, the Blazer ground game was led by Dennis who carried the ball 6 times for 125 yards (20.8 yds/carry) and a touchdown. Renaud ran the ball 3 times for 57 yards (19.0 yds/carry) and a score, sophomore tailback Tyler Butash carried the ball 1 time for 47 yards, Crough had 39 yards on 6 carries, Butash 32 yards and a TD on 8 carries, and Brown had 26 yards and a touchdown on 8 totes. McKelvey rushed for 38 yards and a TD on 7 carries and was 1-for-2 passing with 19 yards, 1 touchdown and an interception.
Defensively, the Trailblazers were led by Oldham with an interception return for a touchdown and 3 pass breakups, Rodriguez with a sack, 2 ½ tackles-for-loss, and a punt block, and senior defensive lineman Atticus Ramsey with 1 ½ tackles-for-loss.
The Trailblazers will next take on Sunflower League foe Olathe West.