Bobcats victorious in ‘classic football game’
As a quarterback, it's something you dream about throwing a touchdown pass with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter in one of the biggest games of the season. Friday night, against Santa Fe Trail, the dream came true for Basehor-Linwood High School quarterback Nick Verbenec.
With the score tied, and just 50 seconds remaining on the clock, Verbenec dropped back and threw a pass to the corner of the end zone. The pass was intended for junior Stephen Brown; and Brown, in full extension, hauled the pass in for the game-winner.
"That's what it's all about," Verbenec said. "Last drive, throwing a fade to the end zone, that was just great. This was a great win."
As dramatic as the final play was, it in no way upstaged the rest of the game, as the Bobcats and Chargers did battle for four strong quarters. Verbenec and Brown hooked up on BLHS's final play to be the heroes in the box score, but coach Paul Brown said the Bobcats won because he's got a team full of heroes.
"In the last drive, if you can go down and put it in the end zone, that says a lot about character and toughness and the mindset of our guys," Brown said. "We've talked about it all year repeating as champions and they had the opportunity to make the statement that we're here, we're on top, and that was a great statement by our young men."
The teams traded failed drives back and forth to begin the game, but the Bobcats finally broke through late in the first quarter when Verbenec found Brandon Dye on a nine-yard touchdown pass. The TD capped an 11-play, 81-yard drive and it put the Bobcats up 7-0.
Not to be outdone, however, the Chargers struck back on their next drive when junior fullback Bryan Ganger scored from a yard out.
"That was just a classic, great high school football game," Brown said. "It was a classic football game at any level."
After trading a couple more stalled drives, the Bobcats again gained the upper hand when Verbenec tossed his second touchdown pass of the night. This time, Verbenec connected with a wide-open Colby Reynolds to give the Bobcats a 13-7 lead.
"We were just four-for-10 in passing the ball, but all four of the completions were for big yards, and three of the four were for touchdowns," Brown said of Verbenec's productive night. "He had one interception, but that was tipped and those things happen. I thought Nick played well for us tonight."
Just like before, however, the Chargers answered on a drive right before halftime. Quarterback Shane Miles hit wideout Cameron Babb on a 19-yard strike in the back of the end zone to tie it with a little more than a minute remaining. The pass was one of Miles' six completions in a first half that saw him rack up 116 yards through the air.
"It just seemed like they were throwing it everywhere," BLHS defensive back Albert Kind said. "It was wild, but I thought we did a pretty good job of staying with them; they just had so many different places where they could throw it."
The teams headed in to the locker room tied 13-13, and there was no more scoring until the game's final minute. Both teams had a few productive drives in the third and fourth quarters, but it wasn't until King picked off a pass at midfield with just under 5 minutes remaining that the tie would be broken.
"It felt like everything just stopped and it was in slow motion," King said of his diving, tipped interception. "It was just me and him and I was blind the whole time, but I stuck with it and came down with the ball."
Once the Bobcats took over, with the game on the line, Brown did not try to hide what he was going to do. He simply stuck with the run.
"We're big and strong and we just kept going right straight at them, right straight at them, right straight at them," Brown said. "There really weren't any secrets about what we were doing, we just let our big guys take on their guys and see who won."
BLHS began the drive with six straight running plays three from John Clouse, two for Joey Barlow and one for Verbenec. But on the seventh play the Bobcats found themselves facing a fourth-and-five with 1:32 left the first of two fourth downs the Bobcats would convert on the final drive.
"We had the momentum and the first one, I really felt good about," Brown said. The second one, there was no question in my mind, because even if we didn't get it, they would've had a long way to go."
On the first fourth down, Verbenec faked the handoff to the left and then rolled back right on a bootleg. The fake was executed so well that all Verbenec had to do was race for the stakes. He picked up six and the drive stayed alive. The second fourth down was again built for Verbenec. On fourth-and-inches, Verbenec just followed his line and pushed forward for a yard and a first down.
"Those were probably the biggest plays of my entire high school career," offensive lineman Justin Ishmael said.
The next play, after Verbenec's sneak, was the game-winner to Brown.
The win evened BLHS's record at 2-2 on the year, but more importantly pushed them to 2-0 in Kaw Valley League action. Santa Fe Trail fell to 2-2 on the year and 2-1 in KVL play.