The Collegiate coaching staff assured its football players at halftime of their first-round Class 3A playoff game Tuesday night that they could score on Conway Springs.
All Collegiate needed was the ball.
The Spartans had the ball for 4 minutes, 6 seconds in the first half and scored two touchdowns on three possessions. They trailed by three touchdowns late in the second quarter.
“We told the kids, ‘they can’t stop you. You’re going to be fine if you just believe and settle in,’” Collegiate coach Mike Gehrer said. “Why not us? Why not have the biggest comeback in our school history?”
The Spartans had five possessions in the third quarter and scored five touchdowns as they beat Conway Springs 56-34.
Collegiate (9-1) advances to Saturday’s second round and will play Hesston (10-0), a 42-28 winner over Hutchinson Trinity. Conway Springs finished 8-2.
Collegiate senior running back Jaques Williams accounted for seven of the Spartans’ eight touchdowns — he scored five rushing touchdowns, threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jack Larsen and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Austin Waddell.
Williams finished with 241 rushing yards.
“We couldn’t hold the onslaught in the second half there,” said Conway Springs coach Matt Biehler, whose top player, Luke Fisher tore a hip flexor on the game’s seventh play.
“I’d like to erase the third quarter.”
Collegiate wasn’t stunned by its explosion of points. It believed that if it could stop Conway Springs, it could score.
“I wouldn’t have predicted 35-0, but I knew we would come back and (get) a win,” Collegiate senior lineman Kyler Ehm said.
Stopping Conway Springs in the first half was the problem, though.
“We really came out kind of flat (defensively),” Williams said. “Those guys are pretty big. We were kind of struggling to tackle and not let them fall for four yards.”
The Spartans had the ball for 55 seconds from the 2:27 mark of the first quarter through the end of the second quarter.
Collegiate’s first drive of the game ended in an 85-yard interception return by Conway Springs’ Derek Pauly for a 14-0 lead. It was Waddell’s second interception of the season.
Collegiate got within 14-7 late in the first on Williams’ 33-yard scoring run. But Conway Springs’ next possession lasted 8:39 during an 18-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Travis Wood’s second of three touchdowns. He finished with 107 rushing yards.
After Collegiate fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Conway Springs scored again for a 28-7 lead with 2:57 to go in the second.
“Kids stepped up and made plays,” Biehler said of the response following Fisher’s injury. “We played a very inspired first half. I can’t say nothing about how the line played. Especially in the first half. And the way Travis stepped in there … and the rest of our backs.”
The second half was all Collegiate. Defensively the Spartans shut down the middle where Conway Springs thrives in its run game.
Offensively, it was Williams, who is 5-foot-7, 165 pounds.
Since Williams is the defending 3A 100 meter champion, Collegiate utilized his speed by sending him out wide and then Waddell would pitch it out to him as Williams ran around end play after play.
“You saw Jaq,” Gehrer said. “He’s special.
“The main thing — of course he has that dynamic speed — but he’s so patient. If you watch him run, he literally is watching guys, watching (them set) up blocks. And then, boom! He shoots in the gap. He’s just patient. He’s dynamic. He’s not very big, but he’s one of the strongest guys on our team, and he’s a load to tackle.”
Williams credited the play calling, which uses his speed while spreading the defense.
Ehm credited Williams.
“When Jaq has the ball, we have to get him in space, which we did very well tonight,” Ehm said. “I mean, no one can stop Jaq.… He’s one of the fastest guys in the state, so once we get him on the edge, it’s going on from there.”
CS — Wood 1 run (Terhune kick)
CS — D. Pauly 85 INT return (Terhune kick)
C — Williams 33 run (Winter kick)
CS — Woods 1 run (kick blocked)
CS — Wood 1 run (B. Pauly pass from Wood)
C — Copher 20 pass from Waddell (Winter kick)
C — Williams 3 run (Winter kick)
C — Williams 13 run (Winter kick)
C — Larsen 25 pass from Williams (Winter kick)
C — Williams 64 run (Winter kick)
C — Williams 5 run (Winter kick)
CS — Wood 18 pass from Dugan (pass failed)
C —Williams 11 pass from Waddell (Winter kick)
Rushing — Conway Springs, Wood 28-107, L. Fisher 5-39, Shaffer 14-12, Ebenkamp 3-11, J. Fisher 1-3, Dugan 3-(-14), Shaffer 2-(-16). Collegiate, Williams 17-241, Aldag 6-52, Waddell 2-12, Burgoyne 2-12.
Passing — Conway Springs, Wood 2-8-13-1, Dugan 4-9-66-0, B. Pauly 0-1-0-0. Collegiate, Waddell 4-5-94-1, Williams 1-1-25-0.
Receiving — Conway Springs, Wood 3-47, Kreifels 1-19, Ebenkamp 1-8, Oswald 1-5. Collegiate, Larsen 2-59, Williams 2-40, Copher 1-20.