Not even two minutes had passed when Derby senior Shane Fowler changed the course of Friday’s football game.
His interception of Maize quarterback Connor Lungwitz just outside the end zone halted an impressive opening drive by the Eagles, sending the Panthers to a 62-13 win over Maize, Class 6A’s fourth-ranked team.
“That was the change,” said Maize coach Gary Guzman, whose team suffered its first loss one week after beating Salina South, then ranked first overall. “It was early in the game, but it seemed to change the entire game.”
Derby senior Jose Delgado agreed.
“That was a game-changer for us,” he said. “The momentum changed for us, we stepped up, we scored.”
And scored. And scored some more.
Derby scored on its first six possessions and didn’t have a negative-yardage play until the final play of the first half. Quarterback Jeremy Dunham had 19 carries for 125 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first period. He also completed 8 of 8 passes for 167 yards.
“We told him, ‘quit worrying, have some fun,’” Clark said. “Jeremy’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a smart kid, he’s fun to coach. If you give him some space, he can run the ball, and he can throw the ball.”
Senior Caleb Arnold, who was playing in the secondary after transferring from Garden Plain, moved to running back to fill in for the injured Tyler West. He learned the offensive signals this week and ran 18 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
Brady Rust replaced Dunham in the third quarter and had 92 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Garrett Xanders took over for Arnold and finished with 68 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end DeAndre Goolsby also had two carries, scoring on a 5-yard run.
“If you can’t move the ball offensively, that means the defense is on the field, and if your defense is having trouble stopping them, then it adds up to that score there,” Guzman said. “It hurts. One week you can be very high, one week you can be very low.”
The Panthers entered the game looking to make a statement because Maize had beaten top-ranked Salina South on Sept. 13, one week after Salina South had won at Derby.
“Everyone was thinking we’re the underdog, that we don’t have anything to give,” Delgado said. “We had to show them.”
Derby’s defense, which gave up 62 rushing yards and 129 passing, intercepted Lungwitz twice and forced two fumbles.
The Panthers allowed 28 points in the first half against Salina South, but have given up 33 over the last 10 periods.
On Maize’s first drive, though, the Eagles moved the ball quickly and easily to the Derby 19 as Lungwitz completed two passes and had a 10-yard run.
The defense was worried.
“I knew they were going to pass it, but I knew our (defensive) backs would step up,” Delgado said.
After Fowler ran to the 42 on the interception, Dunham led the Panthers on a seven-play drive, capped by his 3-yard run with 7:50 to go.
Dunham scored again less than five minutes later. After Derby forced a Maize fumble at the Eagles’ four, Arnold scored on the first play. Derby added one more first-quarter touchdown, a 1-yard run by Dunham with 10 seconds to go in the period for the 28-0 lead.
“We told our kids, just don’t beat ourselves,” said Clark, whose team didn’t commit a turnover until late in the fourth quarter. “If we can not beat ourselves, we can play with most teams.
“ (Losing to Salina South) was a huge wakeup call. I’m not saying I like to lose at all. I’m the worst loser ever. It was good for us to lose that game and open our eyes up, and our kids have responded.”
D — Dunham 3 run (Williamson kick)
D — Dunham 7 run (Williamson kick)
D —Arnold 4 run (Williamson kick)
D — Dunham 1 run (Williamson kick)
D —Arnold 1 run (Williamson kick)
D — Xanders 3 run (Williamson kick)
M — Stewart 23 pass from Lungwitz (blocked kick)
D — Xanders 8 run (Williamson kick)
D — Goolsby 5 run (blocked kick)
D — Rust 1 run (Williamson kick)
M — Stewart 38 pass from Lungwitz (Sanchez kick)