Week 8 figured to be the most dramatic of the 2019 Kansas high school football season so far, and it was without a doubt.
Here is a recap of every meaningful game in the Wichita area Friday night.
Maize at Derby: Eagles get blacked out
Camden Jurgensen thought he had Derby pinned.
From about midfield, the Maize quarterback took a step back on fourth down and launched a 50-yard punt that trickled inside the 1 yard-line. The Panthers would have to go 99 yards, 2 feet and 11 inches.
And they did ... in one play.
Junior quarterback Lem Wash took the snap 5 yards deep in the end zone with senior running back Tre Washington behind him. Wash took off to his right for a speed-option play, the same one that gave Maize nightmares last season.
It did again Friday as Wash put his foot in the turf and watched the Maize defender over-pursue. Wash fired through the safety dropping into the box to contain the damage. He went untouched 99 yards.
Derby beat Maize 55-7 in what was expected to be among the best games in all of Kansas in 2019. At halftime, Derby had 405 yards of offense; Maize had 14.
It was a haunting night south of Wichita for the rest of Kansas, but it started before the game.
The Panthers went through their regular warmup dressed in green for senior night, ready to honor another class of players who helped keep Derby on top of the Kansas high school football world.
When the players retreated to the locker room, they found something they were seeking for more than 10 years, coach Brandon Clark said.
A new black uniform was in every locker. Black jersey. Black pants. Green helmet. Senior receiver Cavion Walker said he knew something was up when he was walking into the locker room.
“I was one of the last ones to walk in, and I heard them yelling from outside,” Walker said. “When I saw one, I melted. It was like a Christmas present.”
Clark said the players raised money for the uniforms over the summer.
“You should have seen their faces in the locker room,” Clark said.
Throughout the game, the speakers blared Halloween-themed music as the Panthers poured it on against one of the few remaining undefeated teams in Kansas.
The Derby offense was almost perfect. The Panthers failed to score on their first drive. After that, they crossed the goal line on every possession until there was a running clock early in the third quarter.
Walker had four touchdown passes in the first half. Wash only attempted eight passes in the first two quarters and completed just five. They epitomized Derby’s third undefeated regular season in the past four seasons.
Walker has battled through injuries his entire Derby football career. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he has the size to be a Division I receiver and the skill that screams he should be. Yet he has just one Division I offer, from Princeton.
Walker said he has been waiting on Friday to come for years.
“I’m kind of surprised, but I think I knew I had it in me,” he said. “This definitely adds to my highlight reel. Hopefully we will see what happens.”
The one throwing him the passes walked a unique path of his own, too. Three weeks ago, Wash was just another skill player on the Derby offense and the backup quarterback to senior Grant Adler, a three-year starter.
After an injury in practice to Adler, Wash became the guy. Since taking over, he is 3-0 and hasn’t scored fewer than 54 points in any game, including against the then-No. 1 seed in Class 5A West, Maize.
He finished 6-of-9 passing for 142 yards and four touchdowns. He had 136 rushing yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns, including the 99-yarder to open the scoring.
Last year, it was Hunter Igo who came in for Adler in Week 4. Igo became the rallying point behind the Panthers’ undefeated championship season. In 2019, it seems to be Wash. All season, Clark said he has told people he might have the best two quarterbacks in Kansas but only one can take the snaps.
Although Wash was spectacular, his performance outlined something scarier: It doesn’t matter who plays for Derby; it is a machine that operates as reliably as time.
Washington, the one who watched it all happen from the backfield, said it would be stupid to think the Panthers would take a step back when the one they call “Lem” stepped in.
“They don’t know about Earnest,” Washington said.
Derby is the No. 1 seed in Class 6A West for the third time in four years. The Panthers are on track toward another state championship, which would make them the biggest 6A dynasty in Kansas since Hutchinson in the mid-2000s.
After the game, Clark told his team, “Enjoy this.”
“But stay hungry because everyone is 0-0 at the start of next week,” Clark said.
Cheney at Andale: Closest home game since 2012
Aliyah Funschelle, Eagle correspondent
The Andale Indians haven’t lost to the Cheney Cardinals since 1998. Cheney could not quite reverse that trend on Friday night, falling short against Andale by a touchdown.
Undefeated Andale claimed the 3A-Division 6 title with a 29-22 win over Cheney.
Andale has put up significant numbers against opponents this season, including a 78-0 win earlier in October.
To win by only one touchdown was not something the Indians were expecting in the regular season.
“We definitely came in not thinking they were as good as they are. We overlooked them,” Andale junior Eli Rowland said. “We have to go into the game with the mindset that every team is going to bring their best and that’s what we didn’t do.”
Before coming into the game, Cheney had only lost one game, in Week 1. Since their loss, the Cardinals have scored 306 points and gave up 73.
The Cardinals’ pressing defense made Andale do something the Indians don’t normally have to do: punt.
“That’s going to happen against good teams, you’re going to have to punt from time to time,” Andale coach Dylan Schmidt said. “We haven’t had to a lot this year which has been awesome, but that’s just going to be how the games are moving forward.”
Cheney forced two scoreless drives from Andale, allowing the Cardinals to be the first to get on the board. Andale quickly answered with a touchdown of its own by junior Noah Meyer.
Although Andale put up another touchdown shortly after, the Indians couldn’t sneak away with the halftime lead due to a touchdown in the last minute of the half by Cheney’s Luke Grace.
With the game tied at the break, Schmidt knew he couldn’t let his team panic. He stressed the importance of forgetting the first half and focusing on winning the second half.
“We definitely wanted to come out strong and punch them in the mouth to start the second half,” senior Easton Hunter said. “We were able to score on the first drive out, so that helped a lot.”
Andale scored on the first drive and kept Cheney scoreless throughout the third quarter. The Indians got a more comfortable two-touchdown lead after a fake-punt pass play from Hunter to sophomore Mac Brand.
Despite multiple interceptions from Andale, the Indians couldn’t completely keep the Cardinals out of the end zone. Cheney scored one touchdown in the second half.
Andale was able to run down the clock on the last drive and claim the 3A-Division 6 Championship. And the win secured a homefield winning streak for the senior class.
“This is a very special senior class ... they’ve never lost a game on this field,” Schmidt said. “The thing that’s been so fun is our guys are just so coachable. If they continue to do that, I like our chances.”
Schmidt said that although winning by 50 points is more comfortable, a close game was what his team needed to prepare for the playoffs.
“There’s a lot of benefit there because our guys play all four quarters,” Schmidt said. “Our guys have been doing good in preparation, but it’s one of those things where you have to do everything correct.”
Hunter agreed that a close game in the regular season will be better for them in the playoffs. To the senior, it’s not just what they did on the field that prepares them for playoffs, but their close bond off the field that will be of benefit to the team.
“We’re so close. We’re a small community,” Hunter said. “We just all love each other, and that’s going to get us far in playoffs.”
Conway Springs at Garden Plain: Another CPL classic
Taylor Eldridge, email@example.com
Since he was born, Matt Pauly doesn’t know if he has missed a Friday night football game at Garden Plain.
The children in the community are bred to be football players. Garden Plain is a town that revolves around high school football and Pauly has been indoctrinated in the culture since berth.
It’s not an exaggeration to say Pauly has been dreaming his whole life of a night like Friday: Garden Plain beats Conway Springs 32-21 on senior night to improve to 8-0 and win the Kansas Class 2A, District 6 championship — not to mention it was the first time Pauly’s senior class has defeated its chief rival in Conway Springs.
“Watching them grow up, I wanted to be a Garden Plain Owl football player so bad,” said Pauly, who quarterbacked the Owls to the win. “Just being out here and seeing what those guys did to big teams like this. And now we’re doing it. It’s just surreal.
“There’s nothing like beating your rival.”
Like every time Garden Plain and Conway Springs clash, turnovers seem to decide the winner, and Friday was no different.
Although Conway Springs had no problem moving the ball with its running game on each possession, three of its drives ended in turnovers that led to a 20-7 deficit at halftime.
The first came in the second quarter, when Garden Plain’s Blake Long forced a fumble on a sack on defense, then plowed his way 7 yards on offense for a second touchdown. Conway Springs methodically answered back with an extended drive that came to an untimely end when Garden Plain linebacker Jordan Thomas slid over and intercepted a quick pass to end the red-zone threat.
Pauly added a touchdown just before halftime, completing a 38-yard pass to Trey Smith, then twisting his way into the end zone on a spin move that left three Conway Springs defenders on the ground.
“I liked our physicality, and I liked how we came off the ball and how we handled things when they did good things,” Garden Plain coach Ken Dusenbury said. “When we were challenged, I thought our kids rose to the challenge pretty well.”
That happened immediately in the second half, when Conway Springs tailback Peyton Winter broke off a long gain, then he scored on a fourth-and-3 play to trim the deficit to 20-14. But Garden Plain answered back with a gritty touchdown drive of its own that featured a dazzling play by Pauly to stay on his feet and dive to convert a fourth-and-5 and a 10-yard touchdown run by Tranden Daerr.
Not to be denied, Conway Springs rattled off a seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter with Winter scoring his second touchdown of the game to trim Garden Plain’s lead to 26-21 with 3:22 remaining.
“I liked the way our kids fought and the way they didn’t ever lay down,” Conway Springs coach Matt Biehler said. “They took it back to Garden Plain and it was a ball game tonight. That’s a good team over there and maybe we’ll see them again in the playoffs.”
John Nowak is another Garden Plain senior like Pauly who has never experienced beating Conway Springs.
And when the Owls needed to grind out the final three minutes to secure the victory, Dusenbury trusted Nowak to plow his way with his 5-foot-9, 210-pound frame to first downs.
“’Don’t let one guy tackle you’ is what coach likes to say every day,” Nowak said. “That’s how I’ve always ran the ball and how I’ve been taught to run the ball here at Garden Plain.”
With the game on the line — a third-and-2 where if Conway Springs stopped Garden Plain, it could potentially get the ball back — Nowak’s number was called, and he didn’t disappoint. He burst through the left side of the offensive line and pumped his legs until he was finally torn down at the 4-yard line.
One play later, Nowak plunged into the end zone for the score to seal the victory.
“We haven’t beaten Conway since I’ve been in high school, so as a community this is a big win for us,” Nowak said. “It feels good to actually finally beat them, especially when coach trusts us seniors to come out and lead the team. That’s what we did.”
With 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, play was paused for 30 minutes for an injury to Conway Springs junior Aiden May. He was carried off the field in a stretcher with a neck brace, but he was moving his lower extremities and waved to the crowd while being taken off the field and transported to the nearest hospital.
Immediately following the game, Biehler said there was no final update but that May was “doing okay and he had good feeling everywhere.” Biehler said the stretcher and ambulance were precautionary measures and that he believes May is not facing a long-term injury.
Wichita East at Wichita West: Dance for 2
It will be deja vu.
Last year, Wichita West beat City League rival East 28-7 in Week 8 of the regular season. That set up a rematch in the first round of the Class 6A postseason. It happened again Friday.
West beat East 28-14, snapping the Blue Aces’ five-game winning streak and pushing the Pioneers’ streak to three. With the result, West climbed to No. 8 in the 6A West standings. The team below the Pioneers: the same team they faced Friday.
East took a touchdown lead after the first quarter, but West stormed back with a 14-0 second quarter. East scored again to tie it at the end of the third, but the Pioneers pulled away again in the fourth.
Buhler at Winfield: Got their number
In a battle for the No. 3 seed, history was on Buhler’s side.
Last year, Buhler beat Winfield in back-to-back weeks to end the Vikings’ season. Friday, the Crusaders had everything working against them and they still earned a 26-10 win.
It was senior night at Winfield for a group of seniors who helped the Vikings to one of their best regular seasons in recent history. On top of that, the Vikings remembered how last year ended. And on top of that, Winfield was fresh off a 14-13 loss to rival Wellington the week before.
Buhler has played Winfield at least once every year since 2010. The Crusaders have never lost.