Derby handles Lawrence to advance to title game

Derby stamps its ticket to the state title game over Lawrence
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 11:25 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The Derby Panthers are one game shy of adding another trophy to the string of championships, topping Lawrence 62-28, to advance to the 6A State Championship game.

Once the Panther offense is clicking, it is a hard unit to stop, rarely have teams been successful this season. If the first Panther drive was any indication of how the game would go, Derby had no reason to worry.

“We have a lot of guys that can make plays,” said senior quarterback Mercer Thatcher. “[Nathan] Keener made a great grab, Drake [Thatcher] and Cayden [Brown] were open all night and Dylan [Edwards] is always making plays,” he finished.

Dylan Edwards capitalized on the first march for the Panthers just two plays into the night, finishing the drive started on the ground by Thatcher.

Lawrence would respond in the early goings of the game. Scoring on its first two drives of the game, the latter coming on the heels of a Derby turnover on downs.

At one point Lawrence held the lead 14-7, but that wouldn’t last long. The Chesty Lion offense seemed to have found success through the air before finishing drives off on the ground with rushing scores from Shane Wilkerson and Truman Juelsgaard.

Derby tied the game on a fourth down conversion where Thatcher found Nathan Keener in the back of the end zone.

The role reversal would continue on the ensuing kickoff when the Panthers recovered a high kick into their own end zone. From there, the Derby didn’t look back.

“I think that was a game changer,” noted Derby Head Coach Brandon Clark. “I think our team responded well, going to get a touchdown, then the stop before another touchdown. I am very proud of the kids, they went with the momentum,” he finished.

In his final game at Panther Stadium, Thatcher commanded his unit down the field scoring on the ground and with the help of Edwards explosive plays to help increase the lead. Derby’s offensive line created massive holes for each of its runners and provided a blanket of protection in passing situations. Seemingly, another day at the office for the Panther offense.

“We talked pregame about putting our signature on every play and if we do that we are going to win,” Thatcher stated. “I feel like for the most part we put our signature on this game,” he smiled.

A plethora of Panthers were involved in the offensive attack. Cayden Brown and Mercer Thatcher joined Keener in coming up big in the passing game for the Panthers. Brown adding a touchdown pass of his own to Drake Thatcher in the first half.

Edwards agreed with the play from his team being a signature statement on the season, citing the constant work this team has put in the entire way.

“We work really hard, it isn’t just because we have Derby on our chest, but the work we put in. It feels great to see all of our hard work paying off and that we are able to make it back to the state championship game,” Edwards explained.

The Panther defense was in familiar form, causing havoc in the back field and forcing its opponents into mistakes. Senior defensive back Brian Murph came away with a late interception to solidify the win further.

Derby will move on to its seventh straight 6A title game, facing Blue Valley Northwest in Emporia.

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