HUTCHINSON, Kan.—State championship games can be gut-wrenching. When the season, and in some cases a football career comes down to one final game, keeping your stomach settled is no easy task. But for Scott City quarterback Brett O’Neil to help his team overcome a 21-point deficit to give the Beavers a 28-21 win over Silver Lake, fighting not only the normal nerves of a state title game, but a stomach flu as well, is nothing short of remarkable.
“That first half went right by real quick like,” said O’Neil. “My stomach felt alright, so I just kept playing through it.”
Before the sun had even come up, O’Neil spent the night sick. But the Scott City quarterback came up with 208 yards passing and 2 passing touchdowns to edge Silver Lake for a state championship.
Counting the night O’Neil had, Scott City got off to a horrible start. On their first possession, Silver Lake held the Beavers to a three-and-out and Scott City’s punt went straight up into the wind setting the Eagles up with a short field.
Peter Pfannenstiel scored for the Eagles on a 9-yard run to give Silver Lake an early lead. Scott City failed to pick up a first down on its second possession, and gave Silver Lake the ball with the same short field. A 3-yard Dailin Kruger keeper put the Eagles up 14-0.
In the second quarter, the Eagles put a drive together that ended with a 1-yard Blake Baird touchdown to go up 21-0 with 34 seconds left in the half.
Trailing big, and looking to go into the locker room on a bad note, Scott City made the most of what little time was left. O’Neil hit his brother Trey O’Neil on a 23-yard touchdown pass with 5 seconds left in the half to cut the lead to 21-7, and give the Beavers something positive to take into the locker room.
“We just talked about one play to get the momentum back,” said Scott City head coach Glenn O’Neil of his halftime speech. “We said it didn’t matter where it came from, special teams offense or defense, let’s have somebody go make a play, any type of play to get the spark back.”
The spark came on defense, on a huge play from linebacker Tyler Hess. Scrambling for his life, Kruger tried to make something happen on a third down and threw the ball up. Whether he didn’t see Hess or couldn’t get enough on the throw on the run, the ball ended up right in Hess’ hands for an interception and a big return.
“It just came right to me,” said Hess. “I just had to catch it. It hit me right in the hands. We played great defense and made them throw on that down. They had a long field to go. It was just right in my hands. I couldn’t believe it.”
The interception set up a Brett O’Neil 11-yard touchdown run on the next play, cutting the lead to 21-14 in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Scott City had all the momentum and had a first and goal from less than a yard from the goal line. However Silver Lake held the Beavers on four straight plays to preserve the lead. Scott City failed to score, but dodged a bullet. Silver Lake picked up a fumble and ran it back 99 yards for a touchdown that may have been a dagger. But the officials got together and ruled the runner was down before the ball came out on first and goal.
Although the Beavers couldn’t score, the field position was in their favor. Backed up deep in their own territory, Scott City’s Wyatt Eitel broke through and blocked a punt that set the Beavers up at the Silver Lake 6-yard line. Brenner Wells pounded it in on the next play to tie the game at 21-21 with about five minutes to go.
With the wind at their backs, the Eagles had plenty of time to go down the field and score. But the Scott City defense came up with another monster play. Brenner Wells picked off a Kruger pass, setting the table for some championship heroics.
With just 47 seconds left in the game, Brett O’Neil found Drew Kite for the go-ahead touchdown on an 8-yard touchdown pass.
“Right before that play,” said Kite, “one of their outside linebackers that was covering me the whole game went, ‘Watch the sweep. Watch the sweep.’ So I was like, ‘You are going to get burned.’ So I just ran right by him. It felt amazing because I knew the game was over.”
The game wasn’t technically over. With a 28-21 Scott City lead, Silver Lake had 13 more seconds left in the game as Scott City had when it scored to end the half. But Hess got his second interception of the game to complete the second half shutout, and give the Beavers a state title for the first time since 1991.
“We dug ourselves into a giant hole early,” said Glenn O’Neil. “And we had the character and the accountability to each other to come back and pull it off.”