Archive for Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Football playoff loss hurts more because Bobcats had chances

November 9, 2011

The sight of teary-eyed football players — especially seniors — is not uncommon following a season-ending loss. Dreams have just been dashed, hearts broken. In most cases, it’s somebody’s last game ever.

Still, the feeling after Basehor-Linwood’s season-ending 28-21 loss to Eudora Saturday at BLHS in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs had a much deeper sting to it than any I’ve witnessed as a reporter.

The Bobcats put together the best season in school history, rolling to an undefeated Kaw Valley League championship, a district title, the program’s fifth straight Class 4A state playoff berth and first 10-win season. Also, for the first time since 2007 — when BLHS stunned Eudora in the postseason — the Bobcats advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

This was supposed to be the year where they made that run at a state championship.

The 2007 and 2008 season-ending losses — both to Holton — hurt as always, but they closed out seasons where the Bobcats had losing records and weren’t expected to make much postseason noise.

The 2009 first-round playoff loss to Jefferson County West closed out an 8-2 campaign and left the Bobcats shell-shocked. Same with the 2010 first-round loss to Sumner Academy that ended a 9-1 season. Both of those high-powered BLHS squads fell behind early and never quite caught up. Players, coaches and fans alike were left wondering what might have been if the Bobcats had only started stronger.

This time, the heartbreak came because the Bobcats were in the game from the very beginning. They had the lead twice, and they had two late possessions to attempt to tie the game.

There was tension on the sidelines, and fans were on the edge of their seats all the way to the final minute as this Basehor-Linwood squad — determined to make this be the year — fought for its life.

The Bobcats absorbed Eudora’s initial touchdown drive by countering with a bruising, 16-play scoring drive that was capped by Colin Murphy’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Murphy. The twins then teamed up for the 2-point conversion, and BLHS had an 8-7 lead.

The Bobcats could have buckled when Eudora converted on fourth down with a 45-yard touchdown run by quarterback Derek Webb on the final play of the first quarter. Instead, they toughened up and answered back with their own dramatic ending to the second quarter when the Murphy twins connected for a 41-yard touchdown as time expired. That sent the game to halftime tied at 15-15.

The Bobcats shrugged off miscues — they had two fumbles and two interceptions — and continued to fight. A well-executed fake handoff set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from Colin Murphy to Jesse Hiss early in the fourth quarter as the Bobcats reclaimed the lead. When Eudora struck back with two touchdowns, however, BLHS never showed signs of folding.

The Bobcats executed an 11-play drive before Andrew Ballock intercepted Colin Murphy’s pass near the goal line. Even then, BLHS didn’t buckle. The defense forced a quick three-and-out and earned the Bobcats one more chance. On that drive, Colin Murphy ran for a 2-yard gain and then completed three straight passes before the drive stalled. After an offensive pass interference penalty near the end zone, Eudora’s Grant Stewart made a sack and then the Cardinals’ secondary broke up a pair of passes to end the game.

What it boiled down to was Eudora’s playmakers making a few more plays than Basehor-Linwood did. Credit Eudora’s line for most of that. The Cardinals’ discipline at blocking created numerous seams to run through, and every Eudora player — even if he was on the far side of the field from the action — always put a body on a Bobcat. Defensively, the Cardinals were equally disciplined, tackling below the waist as well as, if not better than, any BLHS opponent all season.

It was exactly the type of game the Bobcats expected from Eudora, and they were right where they expected to be late — pursuing a victory in the final minutes.

Losing always hurts, and the final loss always stings the most. For Basehor-Linwood and the Bobcats’ 21 seniors, this one was unlike any they’ve ever experienced. They were so close to advancing and they had their chances. Eudora simply made a few more big plays, and a season where Basehor-Linwood accomplished more than any team in school history ended sooner than expected.

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