Early in the fourth quarter, Valley Center just stopped pretending.
Runs around the edge and passes over the middle are sometimes nice to keep a defense honest, but it just wasn’t necessary anymore. The Valley Center offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, quarterback Josh Roeser gained most of his 130 rushing yards by going straight up the middle and Valley Center claimed a 27-13 win over Maize to advance to the Class 5A quarterfinals.
Roeser, filling in for injured quarterback Lange Wyatt, followed his blockers most of the night, and that was enough. The pressure landed squarely on the offensive line, where starters Zach Williams, Brett Hamm, Payton Stoffel, Dillon Cotner and Ethan Bauguess answered the challenge.
“We had a different quarterback this week. He’s a big, heavy-run player,” Williams said. “So we knew it was up to us, and we knew we’d have to block it up front.”
Roeser occasionally threw outside or handed off to tailbacks Caleb Rains and Don Boone, but those secondary options faded in the second half, when the line continued to open holes. In the most obvious example of the offensive line’s success, Roeser ran the ball up the middle for 13 yards in a 16-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that lasted more than 8 minutes and put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
“We really wanted to take it to them in the running game and I thought we did that pretty well,” coach Caleb Smith said. “We hadn’t played well the first half this year and to come out and just run it right down their throat like we did was huge for us. Props to those guys up front.”
Even Stoffel, the 171-pound starting center, exploded off the line enough to lead Roeser to the end zone twice on short dives. Roeser was in the game for all but one offensive play and finished with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.
“He did great,” Smith said. “He ran hard. No fumbles on all those carries, which is very difficult to do. They were trying to strip all night. It was a great team effort offensively.”
Though the battle was won in the trenches, Valley Center still had a hard time putting points on the board early, settling for Aaron Coash field goals from 32 and 27 yards in the first quarter.
But an eight-play, 67-yard scoring drive highlighted the second quarter, followed by back-to-back scoring drives to start the second half.
The only thing that kept Maize in the game was Dalyn Johnson’s early success (18 carries for 146 yards) and the team’s ability to pass and move the ball quickly in the second half. Quarterback Brayden Payne threw for more than 100 yards, including three second-half passes to Tyson Love for 70 yards.
But two of Maize’s three fourth-quarter drives ended in interceptions. Valley Center’s Dalton Cross picked off Payne twice, sealing the win.
Smith said this will be the first time Valley Center (9-1) will play in Week 11 since 1996. The Hornets will go on the road for a quarterfinal with Great Bend (9-1), which beat Andover on Friday in Great Bend.
The buzz of a state playoff win and more football in November for Valley Center was obvious after the game as the team hoisted its regional plaque and celebrated among family and friends.
“It’s something that definitely hasn’t been here in a while,” Williams said. “And it needs to stay around. I’m excited.”
Though Roeser played well as the starting quarterback in Lange’s absence, Smith said Lange could have played but was allowed another week’s worth of rest. Lange did come into the game for one play but a fumbled exchange with Rains brought Roeser back on the next possession.
Smith said he was unsure which quarterback would get the start next week.
VC – Coash 32 FG
VC – Coash 27 FG
VC – Roeser 4 run (conversion failed)
M – Johnson 2 run (Jergensen kick)
VC – Roeser 2 run (Coash kick)
M – Love 33 pass from Payne (kick blocked)
VC – Rains 2 run (Roeser 2 run)
Rushing — Maize: Johnson 18-146, Payne 6-10. Valley Center: Rains 13-66, Roeser 31-130, Boone 11-21.
Passing — Maize: Payne 12-24 131. Valley Center: Roeser 6-12 88.
Receiving — Maize: Love 4-70, Shields 2-6, Doty 2-21, Taylor 1-7, Johnson 3-27. Valley Center: Saunders 2-33, Cross 2-25, Brown 2-30.