BLHS surrenders 400 yards rushing in 28-0 season-opening loss
The Paola Panthers football team prepared a few surprises for its game Friday, Sept. 5 against Basehor-Linwood. But in the end, it was the Panthers' old-fashioned rushing attack that fueled their 28-0 victory.
The Paola surprises included a fake punt on fourth-and-25 and a sophomore running back who wasn't unveiled until the second half. However, the Bobcats and coach Paul Brown weren't surprised by how tough it was to stop Paola from gaining yards on the ground. The Panthers rushed for 419 yards on 51 carries.
"Paola's one of the better football teams in the state year in and year out," Brown said. "We knew they were going to be really good and that was going to be a tough test for us."
During the second quarter of Friday's game it looked as if the Bobcats' test results might go bad in a hurry. Paola had just scored on a long touchdown run to go up 14-0 when, on the Bobcat's ensuing possession, Panthers' linebacker Darin Domnanish flew unchecked into the Basehor-Linwood backfield and blind-sided quarterback Adam Smith for a sack.
BLHS was forced to punt and Paola looked ready to take control of the game.
But the Bobcats' defense responded, holding Paola to three plays and a punt.
Defensive back Joey Brown played a deep pass to perfection, nearly getting his first interception of the year when the ball glanced off his hands.
"I messed up bad, should've gotten that one," Joey Brown said.
Joey Brown's drop didn't hurt the Bobcats, as the rest of the defense was able to stop Paola on the next play and force a punt. Coach Brown said the defensive stand was just one example of his team hanging tough throughout the game.
"We just kept plugging away," coach Brown said. "Yeah they got some yardage on the runs because they're a good team, but we had some stops against them too."
After the teams traded scoreless possessions, it looked certain that the Bobcats would go into halftime only down two touchdowns. With 35 seconds left BLHS had pinned Paola on its own half of the field on fourth down with 25 yards to go for a first down. But Panthers coach Mike Dumpert called for a fake punt that worked to perfection. Paola snapped the ball directly to wide receiver Jake Forck, who took off up the middle all the way to the Basehor-Linwood 40-yard line for a first down.
Only an inexplicable fumble prevented Forck from scoring on the play.
Coach Brown said there was no reason the fake should have caught his team by surprise.
"I'd just finished telling the kids to watch the fake because they'd called time-out," Coach Brown said.
However, defensive back Mike Armstrong picked up all his teammates on the next play by intercepting Paola's desperation pass as the half expired. Basehor-Linwood was handed golden scoring opportunities early in the second half as Paola fumbled the ball in its own end on its first two possessions.
But the Bobcats couldn't cash in.
Running back Tyler Dowdall moved the ball consistently, finishing the game with 81 yards on just 12 carries, but losses on penalties and penetration by Paola's defensive line stalled several Bobcat drives.
"It was pretty frustrating," Dowdall said. "Paola did what they had to do up front; the guys on the other side of the line were pretty big."
The Panthers' second surprise, sophomore running back Donald Smith, made sure BLHS didn't get another chance to get back in the game. On his first carry Smith showed uncommon power and speed as he broke tackles and then outran the BLHS defense to the sideline, turning the corner and going 58 yards for a touchdown.
"Truthfully, I didn't know they had a sophomore running back that was that good," Joey Brown said.
Paola would soon rush its way to another score, but the Bobcats refused to quit, even down 28-0 in the fourth quarter. Dowdall broke out of the backfield for an impressive 36-yard run that forced the Panthers' last defender to bring him down. Dowdall said he was thinking touchdown as he broke into the open field.
"Coach said the only thing they had me by was the tail of my shirt," he said.
The drive ended in an interception, however, and the Bobcats fell just short on their last possession. They drove the field quickly, with Smith connecting on a 35-yard pass and running for 15 more yards to the Paola 7-yard line. The drive stalled there, though, as Smith's fourth-down pass to tight end Kyle Speichinger fell incomplete in the end zone. Smith finished 6 for 15 passing for 83 yards.
Coach Brown said he was disappointed his team couldn't punch the ball into the end zone, but said the game provided plenty to build on for rest of the season.
"We played a lot better football game against them tonight than we did a year ago," Brown said. "That was encouraging for me because they're a better football team than they were last year, too."
The Bobcats' next game will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 at Perry-Lecompton.