Bobcats win Kaw Valley title with second straight shutout
With the game in hand for the Bobcats late in the fourth quarter and most of Basehor-Linwood's starting defense on the sidelines, the Piper Pirates began to move the ball and started knocking on the door to score.
The Pirates put themselves in position to score with a first-and-goal from the two-yard line, but the Bobcat starters went back on the field with one goal in mind.
"They sent us back in to stop them and that's what we did," senior linebacker Matt Dukes said. "That was our whole purpose and we did it."
On first down, the Pirates pushed the pile to the one-yard line but were held out of the end zone. On second and third down, the Bobcats jammed the Pirates at the line of scrimmage. And on fourth down for a fourth straight running play the Bobcats penetrated the Piper backfield, stuffed the run and stripped the ball.
BLHS recovered the fumble, exploded in celebration and took over on their own five-yard line. Three plays later the Bobcats had run out the clock and wrapped up their second straight shutout, 20-0.
"I think that was a statement," coach Paul Brown said of the goal line stand. "Our varsity guys got back on the field and said nope. That was exciting for them to be able to step up and not give up the two yards in that situation."
The final defensive stand was indicative of the way the Bobcats defense played all night as they surrendered just 133 total yards and only 14 on the ground.
"We knew they were going to pass a lot because they were already done for the season and they had nothing to lose," safety Stephen Brown said. "I thought we played a great defensive game. You sort of want to compare us to the Baltimore Ravens."
Like the Ravens of the NFL, the Bobcats have let their defense do the talking for them in the past few weeks and that was again the case on Thursday.
But the game wasn't all defense. In fact, the first half was more about offense. BLHS scored three first half touchdowns and lit the scoreboard up for 20 points in the first two quarters.
Dukes said that was a big reason why the defense could play so aggressive in the second half.
"We could've scored more, but our defense really stepped up by shutting them out," Dukes said. "So hats off to the defense and to our offensive-line, who did a good job of getting the blocks and getting us to the end zone."
The Bobcats first score came early in the second quarter when quarterback Nick Verbenec hit Brandon Dye for a 20-yard touchdown on fourth-and-seven. The touchdown capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive and it put the Bobcats up 6-0.
Just over three minutes later BLHS got on the board again. The Bobcats' defense set the offense up with good field position at the Piper 46-yard line, and five plays later fullback Joey Barlow found himself in the end zone after a five-yard run. Barlow completed the scoring on the drive when he snagged a pass from Verbenec for the two-point conversion. The score put the Bobcats up, 14-0, and they were rolling.
"We had a great effort from our line," Barlow said. "We just followed the holes that they opened up and broke a few tackles along the way to get to the end zone."
Barlow led the Bobcats rushing attack as he carried the ball 21 times for 126 yards. Dukes chipped in 80 yards on 13 carries and Verbenec recorded 68 yards on 12 carries as BLHS's ground game hit Piper with 289 rushing yards on 50 carries.
The win gave the Bobcats the school's first-ever outright Kaw Valley League championship and it pushed their record to 5-4 overall, 5-1 in KVL play. Brown said despite the 12 penalties and few fumbles, he was pleased with the effort his team put out, and ecstatic about the end result.
"I feel really good about our win, I feel good about our league championship and for the chance for the kids to make history," Brown said. "It's our first outright league championship and now we're going to the playoffs for the second year in a row and that's never been done before here either so I think those are great statements by our kids."
Basehor-Linwood's victory over Piper set up a playoff battle with the Eudora Cardinals in the bi-district round of the playoffs.