The Eagles rolled to an 11-0 record, shutting out now 8-3 Pretty Prairie 46-0. The game concluded at halftime.
“Today was one of those days when things just kind of clicked. The boys are playing hard and they’re executing extremely well,” said Eagle head coach Chris Bamberger, who gave lots of credit to his offensive line. “They gave them some really nice holes to run through, and that’s what you hope for.”
Ness City had an outstanding defensive game, allowing the Bulldogs to gain only 20 total yards. Pretty Prairie was a negative four rushing, but went 24 yards on eight passes. The more telling thing about the Eagle defense was how they kept the Bulldogs out of the end zone at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second.
Bulldog quarterback Alex Mains connected with Mark Schnittker to bring the Bulldog offense just inside the six yard line to end the quarter. On the next two downs, Trey Tallant brought them just outside the one, and on the next, Justin Haflich got them inches closer. But on the fourth down, Schnittker was brought down, forcing a turnover on downs.
“You always like to see how they act when they get tested like that,” said Bamberger. “I was pleased to see how they reacted when they were trying to go in and score.”
Dalton Gantz accounted for half of the Eagle touchdowns with three, while Trevor Hawkins, Lawrence Turner and Garrett Flax each had one. Gantz also got into the end zone on three PAT attempts, with the other two completed by Hawkins. One extra-point attempt from the Eagles was foiled by the Bulldogs’ Troy Nagle.
As the Eagles progress through the playoffs with an undefeated record, one experience they lack is playing a full four quarters. The team has 45-ed all but three of its opponents so far. But Bamberger isn’t boastful of that distinction.
“We’ve been fortunate to get some breaks here and there and we try to capitalize on them,” he said.
For the Bulldogs, head coach C.T. Young was handed an unusual loss after having his team make it to the playoffs during eight of the past nine seasons.
“I told them I hoped this game wasn’t the only memory they’d have of the year, because it was a good ride,” said Young. “(Ness City is) No. 1 for a reason, and they showed everyone today why.”
Young will lose the majority of his starting lineup to graduation. Mains, Schnittker, Haflich, Nagle, Tallant, Tyler Markus, Stetson Broce, Corwin Williams and Jacob Welker are all seniors.
“It’s a great group of guys. This was the eighth playoff game they’ve played in four years, so they’ve definitely put in the time and effort. They’ll be hard to replace. Every year, (seniors) are hard to replace, but you find a way.”
At the time the regional game concluded, Bamberger did not yet know who they would face in the sub-state game on Friday, but it was to be the winner of the Solomon-Hodgeman County game. Solomon was leading 8-0 in the third quarter, but regardless of who the victor is, Bamberger said it will not be an easy contest.
“They’re both extremely well-coached, tough, hard-nosed teams. I expect either one would be a tough match,” Bamberger said.