No. 1 Kapaun survives 5A battle against Great Bend

Published: Nov. 3, 2023 at 10:32 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCHCIK) - Unseasonably mild temperatures, no wind, and an otherwise perfect night of playoff football at Southeast High School Friday night. That’s what No. 9 seeded Great Bend might have needed to knock off Kapaun, the top seed in Class 5A west. A pair of early interceptions and a dropped 2-point pass doomed the Panthers as Crusader standout Omari Elias rushed for 263 yards enroute to a 36-34 win.

Great Bend trailed 29-14 late in the first half with Kapaun getting the ball back to start the third quarter. Freshman Cooper Ohnmacht pulled off the heroics, running a kick back 97 yards to keep the Panthers in the game 29-21 at the half.

The Crusaders coughed up the ball on that opening kick of the second half, but Great Bend’s first offensive drive of the half stalled on downs. Kapaun marched down the field, but a 43-yard field goal try from senior Chase DuPont came up short.

That’s when things began to get interesting. Ohnmacht went 64 yards on a pass from sophomore Daxton Minton. That set up a 2-yard touchdown run from senior Cody Miller. Great Bend made the right call for a wide-open 2-point try but the pass was dropped. Kapaun clung to a 29-27 lead with 3:44 to play in the third.

The Crusaders responded with another long drive, capped by a short Elias score. The Crusader lead again grew to 36-27 with 11:13 remaining.

That opened the door for a wild final 11 minutes. The Panthers turned the ball over on downs on their next drive but blocked a Crusader punt to begin their next possession with a short field. Facing first-and-19, Minton heaved a ball 36 yards to the end zone where Premer and a defender went to the ground. Premer emerged with the ball, and the Panthers trailed just 36-34 with 2:06 to play.

With one Great Bend timeout left, Kapaun could all but run out the clock. But the Crusaders were facing fourth-and-two near midfield with the potential of giving the ball back to the Panthers. Elias once again came through with a 15-yard run to seal the win.

Elias finished with 263 yards and three touchdowns on 49 carries. Senior Henry Chrisman added 81 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Dylan Hamilton ran the ball five times for 31 yards with a pair of touchdowns. The senior completed one of five passes on the night for 16 yards.

Minton threw for 293 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions on 14-of-25 passing for Great Bend. The sophomore ran for another 111 yards on seven carries. Premer caught two passes, both touchdowns, totaling 100 yards. Ohnmacht had the big kick return and caught four passes for 91 yards. Senior Colton Brack had a big second half with 64 yards on three receptions.

Great Bend ends its season at 6-4, with the four losses coming by a total of 16 points. Kapaun takes a 9-1 record into next week’s game against Maize South (8-2).