Bobcats fall short in first round
You wouldn't think that a team could look so disappointed when receiving a trophy, but that's exactly what the Basehor-Linwood Bobcats were Tuesday, Oct. 30, as they accepted their trophy as bi-district runners up at Eudora High School.
Accepting the bi-district champions' trophy were the Eudora Cardinals, who jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead, built that to 40-0 and then hung on to win 40-16 over the Bobcats in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
Despite the lopsided loss, however, BLHS coach Paul Brown said that runner-up trophy is still something for his team to be very proud of.
"It's a very significant accomplishment," Brown said. "Because for two years now we've been league champions and we've started a tradition, something that we didn't have at our school before. The good part about making the playoffs is that it proves that we're a good football team, but the bad part about it is that we have to play some good football teams and only one team in the whole thing can go home happy."
Tuesday night, Eudora made sure early on that the Bobcats knew they weren't going to be that one team that went home happy. On the first drive of the game, EHS's junior tailback Andrew Pyle sliced and diced his way to 62 yards and capped the 12-play, 78-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.
The drive took more than five-and-a-half minutes and it took the spunk out of BLHS's step.
"That first drive really set the tone for them," BLHS quarterback Nick Verbenec said. "They just kept taking it at us and we couldn't stop them. It really set the tone for the whole game and it put us in a hole right away."
From there, however, the hole only got bigger. The Bobcats offense stalled three-and-out on its first offensive series of the game and that set the stage for Eudora to build on its momentum. Senior Josh Bowser fielded Darren Marx's punt at his own 44-yard line and went to the distance to put the Cardinals up 13-0 less than eight minutes into the game.
"They took their first drive of the game down the field and really played well out of the gate," Brown said of Eudora. "But then that punt return was really tough to deal with. Before we could even get into the flow of the game we found ourselves down 13 points to a good football team."
The Cardinals sputtered on their next couple of drives, but scored twice in the final four minutes of the half to lead by an insurmountable 26-0 margin at halftime.
On the second play of the second half, Pyle drove the nail into Basehor-Linwood's coffin when he scooted 56 yards through the Bobcats defense to paydirt to give the Cardinals a 33-0 lead.
Outside of Pyle's long touchdown run, the second half was a much closer battle. Instead of lying down and getting steamrolled, the Bobcats dug down and kept battling, and the 16-14 margin in their favor shows that.
"It would've been real easy for our guys to quit," Brown said. "But they didn't. They kept battling and finished the game strong. All of our guys proved late in this game that they were fighters and I was extremely proud of them."
In the past two weeks, the Basehor-Linwood defense was on the good side of two shutouts, and down 40-0 to Eudora on Tuesday night, the offense was determined not to suffer the same fate its past two opponents had.
Behind the running of Matt Dukes and Verbenec's passing, the Bobcats drove the ball down the field and got in the end zone. For a moment, however, it looked like the Cardinals might keep the shutout.
After driving nearly 35 yards down the field, the Bobcats were faced with a fourth-and-four from the 20-yard line. Verbenec calmly dropped back and tossed a fade route to the end zone it was all or nothing. In the back corner of the end zone, Albert King ran under the ball and got the Bobcats on the board snagging a 20-yard touchdown reception with 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Verbenec ran in the two-point conversion and the Bobcats avoided the shutout.
" I'm just glad we went out with our guns blazing," Verbenec said. "We definitely didn't want to be shut out in our last game, so we just kept fighting and at the end, we got a couple of things to work for us. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly enough."
With the offense on the board ,the BLHS defense continued to step up by keeping Eudora in check for most of the second half. After a couple more stalled EHS drives, the Bobcats again took possession with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
Much like the Bobcats' previous scoring drive, Verbenec led his troops down the field with a blend of runs and passes. After another fourth-down conversion, Verbenec hit Bradon Dye for the Bobcats' second score of the game. The two-point conversion was again successful when Verbenec found tight end Jake Brown in the end zone and the lead was cut to 40-16.
After a failed onside kick attempt, Eudora took over and ran out the clock.
Any time a team's season ends, there are a mixture of emotions that flow through the locker room, but despite the loss, Verbenec said he was able to reflect on what had been a great season.
"We accomplished our goals, we were league champions and we made the playoffs," Verbenec said. "It always hurts to lose, but in the playoffs all but one team does lose. It's kind of hard right now, but as the days go on, I know I'll be able to look at this season as a huge success."
Dukes agreed with Verbenec and said he was extremely proud to be a part of this team.
"I am very proud of our team," Dukes said. "We showed that we're not the kind of team that gives up. We were just missing a couple of little things. The little things killed us tonight."
The Bobcats finished the season with a 5-5 record and even though they had five losses, they were able to achieve all of the goals they set in the preseason. Now, however, they'll be forced to wait a while for a chance to advance further into the playoffs.
According to Brown, however, they won't have too long of a wait.
"Next season doesn't start in August," Brown said. "I asked the guys after the game when the off-season starts and they all said now."