BLHS football season ends with loss to Piper
Thursday's 40-8 loss to Piper was a game of missed opportunities for the Basehor-Linwood High School football team.
The most important opportunity the Bobcats missed out on was the state playoffs, which they would have qualified for had they beaten the Pirates.
The game was a winner-take-all matchup, with one team advancing to the playoffs and the other starting its off-season early. It was the opposite of last year, when BLHS beat Piper in a season finale with no playoff implications. The senior-laden Pirates seemed more motivated by the high stakes in Thursday's game.
"I think this year it was all about playing for the playoffs," BLHS coach Steve Hopkins said. "Last year when we faced them there was no chance for either team to advance, so both teams were just playing for pride."
Although the Pirates were certainly up for Thursday's game, the Bobcats had opportunities to take control early on. On Piper's first two possessions Basehor-Linwood's defensive unit forced third-and-longs. But on the first possession fullback Vince May took the third-down handoff and broke free for a 55-yard touchdown. On the second possession, halfback E.J. James one-upped May, taking a third-down handoff and bursting through the left side for a 77-yard touchdown on a draw play.
On both plays the Bobcats' line appeared to get good penetration, but no one could pull down the Piper backs.
"We were there to make plays, but we did not make tackles," Hopkins said. "That has been the story of our season since the first game."
With two lightning-quick scores the Pirates were up 13-0, but the BLHS defense spent the rest of the first half creating opportunities for the offense to get them back in the game. The Pirates next four possessions ended with a botched fake punt, an interception by Andrew Stueckemann and three fumbles, two of them recovered by Ethan Douglas.
But the offense couldn't cash in on any of the opportunities. Senior wide receiver Ben Adams made a spectacular sliding catch for a 29-yard gain that set the Bobcats up at the Piper 28. Four plays later the Bobcats appeared to get on the board on fourth down.
Junior running back Tyler Miles caught a short pass on the right side, shed a would-be tackler and carried the ball 22 yards to the end zone. The celebratory fireworks went off, but the play was called back because of a block in the back.
"We hoped the block was from the side, but it was called a block in the back, and that's the break," Hopkins said. "We had other opportunities to score."
With 1:15 left before halftime the Bobcats got their best opportunity. They took over first-and-goal at the Piper five after recovering their third fumble of the half. But, after pounding the ball to the one, a false start penalty killed the drive. The Bobcats turned it over on downs at the Piper two, with just nine seconds remaining.
At that point an ill-advised play call by Piper helped BLHS get on the board. Rather than kneeling on the ball, sophomore quarterback Joel Wright dropped back into the end zone for a deep handoff.
BLHS linebacker Kevin Marshall got to him before the exchange and pulled him down for a safety. It was one of four sacks on the night for Marshall, playing in the last game of his brilliant career.
The Pirates made up for the mistake in a big way after halftime, though.
They outscored the Bobcats 21-0 in the third quarter to extend the lead from 13-2 to 34-2. By the beginning of the fourth quarter the Bobcats' four seniors, Adams, Marshall, Nick Davis and Chad Whitlow, had to know their careers were coming to a close.
The only highlight of the second half was a 51-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Bruce Tyner with two minutes left. Tyner took the handoff up the middle before cutting left, breaking two tackles and then outrunning the Piper secondary for the score. It was Tyner's first touchdown and the longest play from scrimmage for BLHS this year.
For more on the game and the final season stats, see page 5B.