Bobcats clinch district title with 15-0 shutout
After the Bobcats' blanked Tonganoxie 15-0 for their second straight district victory on Friday, Oct. 19, coach Paul Brown stopped short of saying his team was on a roll.
"It's hard to say if this is a roll or not," Brown said. "But if that's what it really is and we're beginning a roll, what a great time to do it."
But while Brown was unsure about whether two wins qualified as a roll, safety Stephen Brown said he was certain that a win next week would mean the Bobcats were rolling.
"This is great," Stephen Brown said. "I'm speechless. We've put ourselves in a good position and if we win next week we're rolling we can't be stopped."
In what many players called their best and most complete effort of the season, the Bobcats took advantage of three Chieftain turnovers and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, setting them in the driver's seat for the district as well as Kaw Valley League titles.
"This is exactly the goals we shot for," Brown said. "We would've liked to win a couple more games along the way, but this is right where we wanted to be."
On the game's opening drive, the Bobcats reached Tonganoxie's 25-yard line, but were stuffed on a fourth down play and they turned over possession. The Chieftains' first play after the stand went for 44 yards as they, too, put together a long drive, but from there BLHS answered the call and stopped THS on a fourth down as well.
The rest of the first quarter, as well as half of the second quarter, was a continuation of each team's first drive, but Brown said despite the score, he felt his team was in control.
"I give (Tonganoxie) a lot of credit because they played really hard," Brown said. "But I think more than anything we stopped ourselves in the first quarter. We pretty much ran anything we wanted at will and we moved the ball down the field easily. We were so close to popping two or three for huge gains."
With Tonganoxie driving again, the Bobcats again stepped up on defense at the start of the second quarter. Just two minutes in, THS crossed midfield on bomb from quarterback Troy Morando to Matt Alexander and it looked like the Chieftains were in business. Three plays later at the 20-yard line, however, BLHS defensive back Colby Reynolds stepped in front of another Morando pass for an interception and a big return. Tonganoxie tagged Reynolds with a late hit at the end of the return and the Bobcats took over at the THS 27-yard line.
"Our defense was great again tonight," senior tailback Matt Dukes said. "Our defensive backs did a good job of keeping the receivers in front of them and we had a couple big-time interceptions."
Five plays after Reynolds' pick, Dukes got the Bobcats on the board with a 12-yard touchdown run. The scoring drive spanned 27 yards, saw five plays and took just 1:49 off of the clock.
Dukes' run was just one of several that saw the Bobcats blow Tonganoxie off the line of scrimmage and run for big gains. In fact, the Bobcats racked up 206 yards on the ground, their third highest total of the season.
"Our line was spectacular tonight," quarterback Nick Verbenec said. "Offensively, we manhandled them on the line and everything we wanted was there. We should've had at least 30 points."
Instead, the Bobcats only managed 15 as they, too, turned the ball over a couple of times. Verbenec threw two interceptions, but the 15 points of offense he produced was more than enough for a defense that was determined from start to finish.
"They got away a little more on the option than I would've liked," Brown said. "But we made great plays on defense and really stepped up well. Our guys really wanted that shutout bad and that was a huge statement."
BLHS's second touchdown came late in the third quarter and it was again set up by the defense. Midway through the third quarter Tonganoxie was driving to tie the score, but the Chieftains stalled at the BLHS 34 when they went for it on fourth down and were stuffed.
The Bobcats took possession at the 34 and from there they unleashed a drive that broke Tonganoxie's back. Fullback Joey Barlow got things started with a 19-yard gain, Dukes then followed with an 11-yard run, Barlow chipped in again with a 13-yard gainer and after that Dukes again peeled off 18 yards. The four straight first down runs took the Bobcats inside the five-yard line and on second and goal Verbenec scampered in from two yards out.
"Last week, we were still a little bit out of sync and everything didn't quite gel like it should've," Brown said. "But I think tonight it did."
The win moved the Bobcats record to 5-4 on the season and it ensured them of their second straight district title. BLHS will close out the regular season Thursday, Oct. 25, at home against Piper on Senior Night.