One way to combat an explosive offense is to counter it every way possible.
Reigning Class 6A champion Derby didn’t need much time to supply evidence of that in the second quarter of its 65-28 victory over Northwest in a second-round playoff game Friday.
The Panthers, No. 1 in 6A, reeled off 25 points in a three-minute span, using offensive, defensive and special teams touchdowns to throw a wrench into Northwest’s upset plans. The flurry turned a seven-point, first-quarter lead into a 39-7 advantage midway through the second quarter and allowed Derby to settle in on its way to its 20th consecutive victory.
“We caught some momentum and we went with it,” said Derby coach Brandon Clark, whose team improved to 10-0 and earned a quarterfinal matchup with Hutchinson next Friday. “Momentum at any level, whether it’s junior football or all the way up to the NFL, if you catch the momentum, you want to ride it.”
Facing the top scoring offense in 6A, Derby, which entered the game No. 3 in that category, met the challenge. Quarterback Dan Dawdy passed for 307 yards and four touchdowns, and running back Brody Kooser added 219 rushing yards and 107 receiving yards.
Derby outgained Northwest 582-413 while posting a season-high total for points.
“We had heard a lot about their offense and we feel like we have a pretty good one, too,” said Dawdy, who completed 13 of 19 passes and ran for 34 yards and a touchdown. “It motivated us to do well.”
There was plenty of support in all phases.
Derby led 14-7 after the first quarter, then opened the second with a 53-yard pass from Dawdy to Kenyon Tabor. Four plays later, Kooser scored on a 16-yard option run.
The Panthers’ onslaught continued, as Alex McGill scooped up a blocked punt and ran 15 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-7. Derby’s Braeden Cooper then recovered an onside kick, and Dawdy cashed in with a 12-yard touchdown pass on a receiver screen to Kai Lemons.
Derby wasn’t done.
Cornerback Cooper Welch, who surrendered a 51-yard touchdown pass to Northwest standout Martese Mullins on the Grizzlies’ second offensive play, got his revenge by jumping in front of quarterback Austin Anderson’s pass and dove into the end zone on a 23-yard interception return with 7:38 remaining in the first half.
“Derby is such a complete team,” said Northwest coach Steve Martin, whose team finished 6-4. “It starts with special teams, which isn’t surprising given Brandon’s background at Kansas State. … They got things rolling and we just couldn’t stop it.”
Derby, which improved to 7-0 against Northwest in postseason games since 1994, led 45-14 at halftime. The Grizzlies got 177 passing yards and three touchdowns from Anderson, while running back Jahlyl Rounds ran for 137 yards on 17 carries. But Northwest was also doomed by three turnovers.
Tabor finished with five receptions for 127 yards for Derby. The Panthers’ defense did its part by holding Northwest to a season-low point total, 24 below its average.
“We lost our man a couple times out there, but No. 11 (Mullins) has been doing that to everybody,” Clark said. “When we needed to make stops, our kids did a good job of stepping up.”
NW – Mullins 51 pass from Anderson (Benoit kick)
D – Dawdy 2 run (kick failed)
D – Kooser 27 pass from Dawdy (Kooser run)
D – Kooser 16 run (kick failed)
D – McGill 15 blocked punt return (Tullis kick)
D – Lemons 12 pass from Dawdy (kick failed)
D – Welch 23 interception return (run failed)
NW – Mullins 64 pass from Anderson (Benoit kick)
D – Jones 12 pass from Dawdy (run failed)
NW – Hall 5 run (Benoit kick)
D – Kooser 36 run (kick failed)
NW – Smith 13 pass from Anderson (Benoit kick)
D – Jones 31 pass from Dawdy (Littleton pass from Dawdy)
D – Taylor 17 pass from Westerman (run failed)
Rushing – Northwest, Rounds 17-137, Hall 3-73, Anderson 8-19, Martin 2-7. Derby, Kooser 39-219, Dawdy 10-34, Syring 4-5 Westerman 2-0.
Passing – Northwest, Anderson 11-24-2-177. Derby, Dawdy 13-19-0-307, Westerman 1-3-0-17.
Receiving – Northwest, Mullins 2-115, Smith 3-36, Reynolds 5-24, Martin 1-2. Derby, Tabor 5-127, Kooser 3-107, Jones 2-43, Taylor 2-26, Lemons 1-12, Littleton 1-9.