Meade ends Little River’s win streak at 20 for 8-Man title
NEWTON, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Given previous scores from put up by both Meade and Little River during the 2021 football season, many expected a shootout in Saturday’s 8-Man, Div. I state championship game. Buffalo coach Bryan Luetters hoped for an alternate ending. After some early explosiveness from both sides, it was the defense that settled in. Meade pulled ahead 22-14 early in the second quarter. Believe it or not, neither team scored again.
“We were hoping it was this and not a dogfight,” Luetters said. “They come back all the time and score a lot of points. We were hoping.”
Meade provided most of the fireworks early on. Senior quarterback Torren Haynes took the first play from scrimmage 46 yards for a quick 8-0 lead just 16 seconds in. After a Redskin turnover on downs, Haynes and sophomore Bradon Bird took advantage of a fallen defender on a 52-yard pass play. The lead grew to 16-0 just over three minutes in.
“The one-two punch was huge,” said Luetters. “Torren broke a tackle and they had it covered. We kind of caught them off guard on the second one and then they buckled down. They made some adjustments and starting bringing their backside linebacker and chasing us from behind. That’s a good coaching staff. They made great adjustments.”
Little River was able to strike back on its next possession when junior Rylan Konen found his quarterback counterpart in junior Braxton Lafferty on a 60-yard strike down the middle.
The defenses took over from there with four-straight stops. Finally, Buffalo senior Clawson Korben was able to punch it in from a yard out with 6:50 to play in the first half. Those would prove to be the final Meade points in the game.
The Redskins were not quite finished. Little River was answering the score before coughing up a fumble at the Buffalo 5-yard line. Two plays later, sophomore Andrew Smith picked off a Haynes pass. Two plays later Lafferty found junior Grant Stephens in the end zone. That 22-14 score lasted the 21 seconds until halftime and for the duration of the second half.
The defenses reigned supreme in the final two quarters with the first five possessions combined resulting in a punt, an interception, and three turnovers on downs. Meade opened the fourth quarter with a 12-play drive that milked more than six minutes off the clock. A missed field goal would have made it a 2-possession game.
“That’s what we were doing, trying to eat the clock,” Luetters said. “We know they’re a great comeback team and like to have the ball in their hands. We were trying to keep it out of their hands and grind it out. We feel like we get a little better as the game goes on. We’re a little bigger so we can wear down some teams. That’s the game plan if we can get ahead. Sometimes it’s hard to get ahead.”
Battling injury, Little River turned the ball over on downs but made one more big defensive stopped on a blocked field goal from Stephens. The Redskins made it deep into Buffalo territory in the final minute of action but could not get across the goal line.
“It sure changes us,” said Little River coach Kevin Ayers. “Rylan was hobbled and we knew he wouldn’t be able to run the ball like he normally does. Then when Braxton got hobbled all of a sudden you’re down both your quarterbacks. Grant got us going pretty good then he went down with a pretty bad ankle injury. It just made it hard to call plays and get into any rhythm.”
Little River was held to just 53 rushing yards and 66 passing yards in the second half. Lafferty threw just two times in the final two quarters to finish with 44 yards on 4-of-7 passing with a touchdown. He rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries.
Konen completed just three of his 15 passes in the second half to finish with 155 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 5-of-19 passing. Lafferty had the 60-yard touchdown catch, and Smith caught two second-half passes for 57 yards.
Meade presented a 2-man show out of the backfield with Haynes rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Korben ran the ball 30 times for 111 yards and a score. Haynes completed 7 of his 13 passes for 135 yards.
Little River, last year’s state champion, ends a 20-game win streak with a 12-1 season. Meade closes the book on a perfect 13-0 season.
“This is a special group,” Luetters said. “We try to go 1-0 every week and we tell them we don’t care what they’ve done in the past or in the future. We’re just worried about that week. We’ve done that all year long and I think it’s really paid off.”
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