Bobcats’ 2-0 win over Santa Fe Trail ends 13-game losing streak
Everything was in place for a homecoming victory at Basehor-Linwood on Friday. The band and the cheerleaders were in top form, the stands were packed with BLHS parents, students, and alumni, and as the sun dropped below the tree line just after the opening kickoff, it became a brisk but comfortable evening. All the homecoming magic the Bobcats could ask for was present to help them end their 13-game losing streak.
Forty-eight minutes later, after the Bobcats had hung on for a 2-0 victory over Santa Fe Trail, one thing was clear: homecoming magic works in unusual ways.
"First game in my coaching career I've ever won two to nothing," coach Paul Brown said. "It was just a great effort and when you've been on a streak like we've been on, you take whatever you can get."
In an unpredictable game in which both teams were able to move the ball at times, but neither was able to crack the end zone, the outcome ultimately hinged on one play that occurred in the first quarter. Chargers quarterback Lance Boss dropped back into his own end zone to throw on third and long. Boss couldn't find a receiver, and with BLHS linemen Michael Hancock and Ryan Heffley bearing down on him, Boss flung the ball out of bounds before being thrown to the turf.
"We chased him and me and Heffley took him down," Hancock said. "It was awesome."
Hancock didn't know just how awesome the play was until the referee ruled that Boss' desperation fling was intentional grounding, giving the Bobcats a safety and a 2-0 lead. Even then it was hard to know just how important those two points would be.
It looked as though the Bobcats would surely add to their lead before the end of the half. The defense was dominant, holding the Chargers to just 37 yards before the break, highlighted by an interception by Mike Armstrong on the Chargers' second play.
Meanwhile BLHS quarterback Adam Smith was solid early, completing four of his first seven passes to four different receivers, despite having two dropped. Smith also hooked up with Joey Brown for a 40-yard gain that was called back because of an illegal block at the line of scrimmage.
Running back Tyler Dowdall showed flashes of early brilliance also, running for a 26-yard gain after getting a great block from Billy Hashman. Dowdall nearly broke it for a touchdown but was pulled down from behind by the Chargers' last defender. Despite giving up some significant yardage, the Chargers' defense forced five punts and one fumble in the first half.
"They played tough defense, but so did we," Smith said. "We just went at it and did everything we could do."
Coach Brown acknowledged the defensive effort put forth by both teams, but said the Bobcats also stopped themselves with costly penalties.
"We had some great plays in that first half and then all of a sudden we're back in our own territory with even farther to go," Brown said.
It seemed the Bobcats might have missed their chance to take hold of the game, as the Chargers' offense began clicking in the second half. They drove 64 yards on the opening drive before stalling on the BLHS 18 after a costly holding penalty. In the fourth quarter the Chargers were rolling again, reeling off run after run all the way to the goal line. With the tired Bobcats' defense facing a first and goal at the one, the outlook was bleak for the home crowd.
But this was homecoming, and there was still a little magic left. After a run up the middle was stopped for no gain on first down, the Chargers fumbled the next snap. When the players were unpiled the Bobcats came up with the ball.
"We knew we could do anything after that," Hancock said of the fumble recovery. "It was a great feeling."
On the ensuing possession the Bobcats drove to their own 46 before facing a fourth and one. With only minutes left in the game, the safe play was to punt it away and force the Chargers to drive the whole field. But Brown, knowing a first down would effectively end the game, decided to go for it after talking it over with his offense during a time-out.
"I said 'if we get this first down we win this game, this is over, the victory comes and the losses are done,'" Brown said. "I said, 'so you guys just decide right now, push them off the ball and let's get it done.' And they all just nodded their heads in agreement."
Then Smith took the snap and dove straight up the middle with Heffley leading the way as the two teams clashed head-on. Two yards later Smith sprang up from the bottom of the pile and pumped his fist in the air, the frustrations of over a year of losing dissipating into the cool fall night.