Central Plains' defense completes dominant season with title

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NEWTON, Kan. - Claflin-Central Plains coach Chris Steiner and Solomon coach Steve Tiernan met briefly after Saturday’s Eight-Man, Division I state championship game.

Central Plains defeated Solomon 52-6 to win the KSHSAA 8 Man D1 State Championship Football Game at Fischer Field in Newton on Saturday, November 24, 2018. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)

CP, led by its stifling defense, won 52-6 in a game called with 10 minutes, 24 seconds in the third quarter because of the 45-point mercy rule at Newton’s Fischer Field.

Tiernan is one of eight-man’s all-time most accomplished coaches and has taken three teams to state title games. Tiernan told Steiner he “couldn’t believe” how well Central Plains’ defense “kept adjusting” to Solomon’s offense.

“It gets about as good as it gets right here, absolutely,” Steiner said. “It really is. That was a great job by our whole team. (Solomon) did a lot of great things, and nobody is going to believe that by the score, of all the things that Solomon did to work us.”

Last week, Solomon went with wider offensive line splits, a change that gave Canton-Galva problems. In the title game, the Gorillas had snaps where no one was lined up to the center. The guard was several feet wide of the center. Still, the Oilers continually adjusted with its excellent defensive line. CP’s 3-2 defense finished with five tackles for loss and five sacks.

“They want to get those d-ends way outside, because they know in the 3-2 how important the d-ends are,” Steiner said. “Coach (Tiernan) has coached that defense. He knows what he is doing. He knows the holes in it, so that was the game plan. We talked about it coming in.”

Solomon had 24 plays for minus-23 yards. Central Plains finished 13-0 and won its first title since 2014. Solomon (11-2) advanced to the first state title game in school annals. The Oilers permitted Solomon’s touchdown off a kickoff return.

CP had nine shutouts and permitted 34 points this season, the fewest by an eight-man squad in at least 15 years. Jetmore had allowed 40 in a state title winning season in 2003.

“Probably their discipline, speed, strength,” Tiernan said of CP’s best defensive qualities. “How good they were, I mean it all stuck out. But yeah, everywhere they were supposed to be, that’s where they were.

“You can always expect to catch a guy cheating here or cheating there,” he added. “They didn’t cheat. They did their job. Their front three were good enough, they could drop those back five and kind of have their way with it.”

Steiner said the defensive line of seniors Grant Heldstab, Brett Liebl and Mason Doll was the best he has ever coached.

“I am just so proud of them,” Steiner said. “They have just done a phenomenal job all year long.”

Central Plains immediately dominated when Solomon netted minus-11 yards on its first three plays. The Oilers blocked a punt, and took over at the Gorilla seven-yard line. Three plays later, Central Plains senior quarterback Myles Menges scored from three yards out.

Senior running back Alex Hickel tallied an 11-yard run for a 16-0 lead with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the first quarter.

Hickel bumped the lead to 24-0 on a 52-yard run with 11:45 left in the first half. He had a team-leading seven rushes for 74 yards.

Then, Solomon scored on a 67-yard kickoff return TD from sophomore Alex Herbel to cut the deficit to 24-6.

“We bend but don’t break,” Liebl said. “That’s our motto. Everybody has to do their job, and everything will fall into line.”

Solomon senior lineman Jobe Fowles, who also finished with two sacks, picked off a pass on the defensive line at the CP 24-yard line. However, Solomon netted minus-6 yards on the drive.

“Their front line was really plugging the holes today,” Fowles said.

Menges found Heldstab on a 42-yard scoring pass for a 32-6 margin.

Heldstab broke multiple tackles as he ran down the left sideline. Junior Lawson Oeser had a three-yard scoring run for a 40-6 halftime lead.

“It felt good,” Heldstab said. “We like to spread the love and make sure everybody gets a ball, and a touchdown is a touchdown. We all just worked together really well, and we have been spending so much time together and just got really good.”

On the first snap of the second half, Menges found Oeser for a wide-open 40-yard TD pass. Menges finished 6 of 8 passing for 168 yards. Three plays later, junior Jerred Bieberle ended the game with a pick-six.

“I just can’t give enough credit to our d-line and how well our d-line plays, but part of that is because the guys behind them, they give them so much confidence that they are always going to take care of stuff,” Steiner said.

Central Plains defeated Solomon 52-6 to win the KSHSAA 8 Man D1 State Championship Football Game at Fischer Field in Newton on Saturday, November 24, 2018. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)