HAYS, Kan. - Two state titles into the start of another run, Smith Center entered Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game with a perfect record that included wins over 1A powerhouse Plainville and Class 2A’s Norton, which was also still alive on championship Sunday.
But the Redmen had not yet seen the potent combination of championship-caliber opponent and strong wind as they did Saturday. Centralia was able to capitalize, scoring twice in the final seven minutes of the season to steal an 18-14 win.
“Losing this today doesn’t change anything,” said Smith Center coach Darren Sasse. “I’m so proud of them and the effort they put in to get to this point. You’d like to win it, but hats off to Centralia. They’re a great team.”
Smith Center senior Trenton Colby proved to be unstoppable in the first half with 142 yards and both Redmen scores. That changed in the second half as Colby netted minus four yards in the final two quarters. With standout Jaden Atwood out of the lineup with an injury, the Smith Center offense stalled.
Centralia did little better with a turnover on downs after its first drive of the second half could have resulted in a touchdown that was called back on a penalty. The Panthers punted it on their next series, then do-all senior Kamble Haverkamp changed the game with a 69-yard punt on the third possession.
Four plays later, Smith Center had to punt the ball away into the wind. The result was a short possession for the Panthers. Haverkamp took the next play from scrimmage 40 yards for the score with 6:45 to play. The Redmen stopped the 2-point try and clung to a 14-12 lead.
Smith Center opened its next possession inside its own 20-yard line, and four plays later needed another punt. This one into the stiff north wind netted just eight yards.
“The wind was obviously going to be a big factor,” Sasse said. “I can probably second guess myself on some decisions but (Centralia coach Larry Glatzcak) is probably the same way. Both teams had to play in it so that’s the way it is.”
Still, a game-winning drive proved difficult for the Panthers. The senior Havercamp completed a 16-yard pass to sophomore Corbin Becker on fourth-and-12. Three plays later, the Panthers were stalled at the 2-yard line facing another fourth down with under a minute to play. Havercamp got outside and scored with 55 seconds remaining.
Facing the wind, Smith Center was unable to do anything on its final offensive possession of the season. The Centralia bench exploded off the bench as time expired on Colby’s final prep pass fell to the ground.
Colby controlled the game early on, taking the first play from scrimmage 53 yards. That possession ultimately netted zero points, but Colby was able to find the end zone from 21 yards out on the next Smith Center drive.
Centralia marched right back down the field, needing just three plays to go 52 yards. Haverkamp’s 40-yard run to close out the first quarter took up most of those yards.
Both teams punted the ball away twice before the Redmen took over on a short field late in the second quarter. Five plays later it was Colby breaking lose for 13 yards for the score. Sergio Lambert booted through his second PAT for what proved to be important points until the final minute of the game.
Colby finished with 138 yards and two scores on 15 carries. Jakob Sasse added 84 yards on 19 attempts, mostly in the second half. Colby completed just one pass in the game for a yard to Griffin Kugler. Colby also paced the Redmen defense with eight tackles, and Colton Haresnape recorded six.
Haverkamp netted 104 of his team’s 112 rushing yards on 23 carries. He also threw for 37 yards on 3-of-7 passing with an 18-yard reception from Noah Quigley and Becker’s 15-yard reception. Becker had the big game defensively with 12 tackles, followed by 11 from Austin Holthaus, and eight each from Colton Hasenkamp, Isaac Flood, and Tyler Heinen.