Sometimes, on game days, Jeremy Dunham’s mind drifts away. It conjures up thoughts of what he might do, someday, on the football field for Derby.
That someday came on Friday night.
Dunham, in after injuries to starter starter Todd Freeman and backup Kellen Sims, scored two touchdowns to rally the Panthers to a 21-14 win over Northwest in their Class 6A playoff opener.
Derby hosts Manhattan next Friday in the quarterfinals.
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“It’s pretty hard to imagine that happening,” said Dunham. “But you’ve always got to have that thought that you are going in on the next play. You have to keep your mind ready.”
Freeman was having a productive game (146 total yards) until a monstrous hit from Northwest’s Bennett Moore knocked him out of the game with seven minutes left in the third quarter. Sims came in, but two plays later he was forced to leave the game after being injured on a 28-yard run. Freeman is considered day-to-day with his injury.
In came Dunham, an unlikely hero with marginal varsity experience.
Dunham took his third snap of the game, faked the hand-off and ran untouched six yards for the game-tying touchdown with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
The very next drive, Derby inserted Dunham in the red zone and once again he delivered a convincing fake handoff. This time though, he stayed in the pocket and lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Goolsby for the winning score.
“I think the biggest thing was the confidence those other 10 guys showed (Dunham) in the huddle,” Derby coach Brandon Clark said. “Those guys were excited and patting him on the back, ready to go. When you’ve got 10 guys, 10 of your teammates, 10 of your family members saying that to you, all you want to do is please them.”
It was difficult to tell whether Northwest was shell-shocked or out-maneuvered in the second half. It was probably a little of both, as the Grizzlies finished the last 27 minutes of the game without a first down and lost eight yards in 27 plays.
“I can’t tell you what happened the second half,” Northwest coach Weston Schartz said. “We got a little conservative. Hell, we’ve been conservative for 27 years, though. It just didn’t work out for us tonight.”
Derby felt lucky to only be facing a 14-7 deficit at halftime after three first-half turnovers. Northwest scored in the first half on a 22-yard run by Skyler Krehbiel and a 25-yard run by Jordan Wiedemann.
“When I was talking to them at halftime, I looked in their eyes and there was confidence,” Derby coach Brandon Clark said. “As a coach, when you see those eyes staring back at you that’s a great thing.”
Clark had so much confidence in his defense, he felt comfortable going for it on fourth down in Northwest territory twice in the final quarter.
Derby didn’t convert either time, but neither did Northwest when it received the ball.
“We pride ourselves on being a family,” Derby senior linebacker Myles Stroud said. “Trust is crucial. We trust our backups. We trust our younger guys. Our whole team is built on trust, which was ingrained in us through practice, through boot camp, through all the work-outs. We went out there and won it as a family tonight.”
Derby (7-3) 0 7 14 0 — 21
Wichita Northwest (7-3) 14 0 0 0 — 14
NW—Krehbiel 22 run (Stevens kick)
NW—Wiedemann 25 run (Stevens kick)
D—Freeman 12 run (Shain kick)
D—Dunham 6 run (Shain kick)
D—Goolsby 25 pass from Dunham (Shain kick)
Rushing—Derby, Freeman 18-113, West 21-92, Sims 7-49, Dunham 2-6. Northwest, Krehbiel 16-76, Thompson 14-53, Wiedemann 14-22, Thurman 3-7, Moore 1-(-25).
Passing—Derby, Freeman 3-11-33-1, Dunham 2-4-28-0. Northwest, Wiedemann 2-7-2-0.
Receiving—Derby, Goolsby 3-46, West 2-15. Northwest, Rotunno 1-1, Simpson 1-1.