GARDEN PLAIN — In the final two minutes of Friday night’s Class 3A-District 8 opener, Garden Plain’s football team experienced vastly disparate emotions.
It started with the disappointment of being stopped on four straight plays at the Hutchinson Trinity 2-yard line, thus failing to put the game out of reach.
There was an apparent interception by Garden Plain’s Nic Watson that was overturned by a face-mask penalty. Then a 37-yard dual reception made by Trinity’s Will Bothwell and the Owls’ Joey Capul, with the tie going to the offense.
Finally, there was the thrill of watching Hutchinson Trinity quarterback Derek Racette’s pass into the end zone fall incomplete, ending Garden Plain’s 14-7 victory in a matchup of ranked teams.
“We were obviously nervous, but we knew we could beat them,” said Garden Plain junior Lucas Jennings, who had 98 rushing yards. “We kept our heads.”
“This was just a good football game, a good football game,” Hutchinson Trinity coach Sean Racette said. “Knowing how tough our district is, it was important to get this game. But we understand the season isn’t over.”
Offensively, Garden Plain (6-1, 1-0 3A-8) controlled the clock with its running game. The Owls finished with 297 rushing yards from seven backs. They had three double-digit play drives, including an 18-play, 78-yard drive capped by Capul’s 1-yard run with 1:25 to go in the first half.
“We were able to keep fresh backs in there and keep them rolling,” Garden Plain coach Todd Puetz said.
Their second touchdown came at the start of the third quarter; it took 41 seconds after Kendrae Arnold’s 25-yard touchdown run.
“We haven’t been able to pound people out like that,” Jennings said of the Owls’ run game. “It was fun.æ.æ.æ. Up front, we were just beating them.”
Defensively, the Owls pressured Derek Racette constantly, finishing with four sacks, along with interceptions by Nathan Becker and Capul. Racette had thrown two interceptions in the first six games.
Garden Plain’s pressure was key because Racette thrives on scrambling before making a tough completion. He was 16 of 34 passing for 289 yards.
At the end of the first half, three Garden Plain players had chances to sack him, he got away and completed a 49-yard pass, to the Owls’ 1-yard line, with 1.3 seconds to go. Hutchinson Trinity (6-1, 0-1) failed to get the snap off in time and the half ended.
Sean Racette was furious with the officials, wanting clarification on getting his players to the line of scrimmage. Penalty flags were flown, but he was not ejected.
Although Garden Plain gave up a lot of yards to Derek Racette — receiver Michael Mesh had 209 receiving yards — the Owls didn’t give him anything easy.
“I felt that our defensive line did a good job of blowing the offensive line back and making them run backwards and making him think about what would happen before he let it go,” Garden Plain senior Reed Hartshorn said.
Defenses have tried to get to Racette before, but no team has been as effective as Garden Plain.
“I think it was the linebackers coming and he’s running for his life most of the time,” Puetz said.
Hutchinson Trinity (6-1, 0-1) 0 0 0 7 — 7
Garden Plain (6-1, 1-0) 0 7 7 0 — 14
GP—Capul 1 run (Weber kick)
GP—Arnold 25 run (Weber kick)
HT—Racette 1 run (Mesh kick)
Rushing—Hutchinson Trinity, Racette 14-16, Mesh 2-7, Koenigsman 2-6. Garden Plain, Jennings 13-98, Arnold 18-83, Hartshorn 12-75, Capul 10-37, Watson 5-11, Tomlinson 5-(-7).
Passing—Hutchinson Trinity, Racette 16-34-289-2. Garden Plain, Tomlinson 3-4-48-0.
Receiving—Hutchinson Trinity, Mesh 10-209, Bothwell 5-69, Koenigsman 1-11. Garden Plain, Sponsel, 3-48.