Maybe, it was theorized, Hutchinson could beat Derby if the Salthawks didn’t make so many mistakes.
Maybe, it could have been concluded during top-ranked Derby’s first 10 wins, it’s impossible to play spotless football against the Panthers.
Derby, the defending Class 6A champion, improved to 11-0 and advanced to the semifinals with a 40-7 home victory over Hutchinson on Friday night. Derby capitalized on some early Hutchinson miscues, and survived some of its own, to score 27 points in the first quarter.
The Panthers, 6A’s top seed and winners of 21 straight, advance to a semifinal home game next week against Lawrence Free State. They have outscored their last five opponents 276-35.
“You have to have the kids that we have right now to be able to do what we’re able to do,” Derby coach Brandon Clark said. “Our kids fly around, and they’re so fast on defense. They make the other side make mistakes.”
In their last meeting, a 46-20 Derby win on the road, Hutchinson committed four turnovers that helped turn a close game into a comfortable margin of victory for the Panthers. In Part II, Hutchinson never had the luxury of a fighting chance.
Derby blocked a Hutchinson punt after the Salthawks’ first drive, returned it to the 1-yard line, and scored on the next play. In 11 more plays, Derby had scored three more times to take a 27-0 lead in the final second of the first quarter.
“It was honestly exciting, but we still didn’t play to our full potential, I don’t think,” said Derby receiver Kenyan Tabor. “Which I think is crazy when we’re putting up numbers like that. It’s just exciting to see what it holds for next game.”
Hutchinson had two fumbles, including one on a kickoff that turned into a Derby touchdown, and an interception in the first half. Derby’s offense was sluggish after it took the big lead, with an interception and a fumble, but those hiccups proved meaningless to the outcome but magnified by Clark.
Derby had four total turnovers but Hutchinson averaged fewer than 10 yards on the series that followed.
“We tell the guys this – the ball is our program,” Clark said. “That’s who we are. If we can control the ball and not beat ourselves … hopefully we come out on top.”
Hutchinson keyed on Derby’s two-pronged running attack of tailback Brody Kooser and quarterback Dan Dawdy and kept the pair in negative rushing yardage until the opening minutes of the third.
Dawdy and Clark turned to the passing game, where the Panthers thrived. Even though his last pass of the first half and first pass of the second half were intercepted, Dawdy had few other difficulties.
“We saw some things we liked,” Dawdy said. “We wanted to attack early, we liked our m matchups all around the field. We just wanted to come out and get our playmakers involved early.”
He found a top target in wide receiver Tabor, who had 10 receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns before Dawdy was replaced with a big lead.
Kai Lemons’ 50-yard reception preceded his own 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Michael Littleton caught a 64-yard touchdown in the first half. Dawdy finished with 361 passing yards, completing all but eight of his 25 attempts with five completions of at least 27 yards.
Derby scored the first 40 points, building a margin that looked more impressive because of the defense. Hutchinson finally broke through with a fourth-quarter touchdown, but mostly the Salthawks’ run-based offense was stifled.
Nobody had scored more than Hutchinson’s 20 points against Derby this season, but the Salthawks didn’t threaten that mark in Friday’s sequel.
“I was very impressed, but at the same time I wasn’t because I have to go against them every single day,” Tabor said of the Panthers’ defense. “It was no surprise to me, but it was really amazing to see them hold them to only seven.”
D—Kooser 1 run (kick failed)
D—Littleton 64 pass from Dawdy (Tullis kick)
D—Tabor 28 pass from Dawdy (Tullis kick)
D—Dawdy 4 run (Tullis kick)
D—Tabor 12 pass from Dawdy (Tullis kick)
D—Lemons 11 pass from Dawdy (kick failed)
H—Smith 7 run (Culley kick)
Rushing—Hutchinson, Galindo 14-90, Smith 13-41, Harris 6-32, Craig 9-28, Denton 3-16, Holmberg 3-11; Derby, Igo 5-26, Kooser 7-10, Dawdy 11-8, Syring 1-(-2).
Passing—Hutchinson, 0-6-1-0; Derby, Dawdy 17-25-2-361, Igo 1-2-0-8.
Receiving—Derby, Tabor 11-206, Littleton 3-85, Lemons 3-62, Jones 1-16.