Blowout status became official when, with less than a minute gone in the second half of the Class 6A semifinal, the referee ordered that the clock keep moving.
For the game’s final 26 minutes, it stopped for timeouts, scoring plays and at the end of the third period.
Yet Derby’s celebration of its 55-17 victory didn’t happen until after shaking hands with Garden City’s players.
“This is the third year in a row that we’ve been here,” Derby senior defensive lineman Jordan Hill said of the semifinal. “It’s so great to finally put it away and go to state. Now we have a chance to get the state championship. I’m so overwhelmed. I love my team so much.”
Derby (11-1) will play Shawnee Mission East (11-1) at 1 p.m. next Saturday in Topeka.
The Panthers’ crowd hovered just beyond the south end zone, antsy to rush onto the field for hugs and high fives. When the trophy was presented, the crowd finally got its chance.
Derby, which was playing in its fifth semifinal in the past six seasons, lost to Hutchinson in the 2012 semifinal. The Salthawks won by one after going for a two-point conversion at the end of the game.
“The kids remember that,” Derby coach Brandon Clark said. “We didn’t harp on it at all. We didn’t talk about the Hutch game at all. We talked about taking care of ourselves, taking care of turnovers and creating turnovers on defense and wrapping up and being special on special teams.”
The Panthers had another close loss in 2009, when it lost to Heights in the final seconds after getting stopped inside the 5-yard line.
There was no such drama against Garden City.
Derby forced a punt on Garden City’s opening series, then the offense capped an 11-play, 74-yard drive with a five-yard scoring run by Tyler West.
West, who had three touchdown runs, had 157 rushing yards on 14 carries, including 13 first-half carries for 100 yards. He also had a four-yard scoring run in the second quarter to put Derby up 35-10.
Derby’s passing game was on point, as well, with senior quarterback Jeremy Dunham completing 6 of 7 passes for 161 yards, all in the first half. He had three passing touchdowns. DeAndre Goolsby had five catches for 151 yards and caught touchdown passes of 48 and 26 yards.
“One thing they do, they put pressure on you in the middle of the field,” Garden City coach Brian Hill said. “You try to stop the run, and then they throw the ball over the top to Goolsby. They have all the different weapons a great team would have.”
Dunham also had 103 rushing yards on 10 carries and had scoring runs of 64 and 8 yards.
Derby had a 48-10 lead at the half, and the first-team defense didn’t give up a touchdown. The Panthers have won 11 straight games, and in that span, the defensive starters have allowed two touchdowns.
The defense held Garden City’s hugely athletic quarterback Greyson Tempel to 81 rushing yards on 15 carries and he was 8 of 24 passing for 95 yards. Derby senior Travis Young intercepted Tempel, too.
“It’s how fast our defense is,” Young said. “Nine of our starters are seniors. We’ve been playing each other since sixth grade. We know how everyone rolls.
“ A lot of people said (Tempel) was like Johnny Manziel, but when you have 11 guys out there who are just as fast, he doesn’t have anywhere to go.”
While Derby’s defense clamped down on Garden City, the offense took advantage of good field position.
Garden City had a 14-yard punt in the first quarter, setting up a Derby touchdown three plays later. Garden City also had a two-yard punt that it followed with a penalty late in the first half; Dunham scored on the first play from eight yards.
“When they score half of a hundred, and they’re great on defense, you have to play a perfect game, and we didn’t come close to that,” Hill said.
Clark lingered on the field after the players had all left for the locker room. He was handed an envelope that said “Winner envelope” in large type.
“I haven’t gotten one of these before,” he said.
D — West 5 run (Williamson kick)
D — Arnold 10 pass from Dunham (Williamson kick)
D — Goolsby 48 pass from Dunham (Williamson kick)
GC — I. Hernandez 33 FG
D — Dunham 64 run (Williamson kick)
GC — Koster 70 kickoff return (I. Hernandez kick)
D — West 4 run (Williamson kick)
D — Goolsby 26 pass from Dunham (miss kick)
D — Dunham 8 run (Williamson kick)
D — West 57 run (Williamson kick)
GC — Tramp 11 pass from Tempel (I. Hernandez kick)