CIMARRON, Kan. - Cimarron coach Mike Schartz knew the Bluejays “had a weapon” in sophomore kicker Emanuel Aguilar. However, Aguilar was out last year with a concussion and sprained his ankle in Week 1.
The Bluejays had called for extra point and field goal attempts in practice and simulated loud, late-game situations. Schartz told Aguilar that if he made at least 80 percent of his practice kicks, then he would receive a game opportunity.
On Friday, Aguilar had his first chance when the Bluejays elected to kick after it faced a 4th-and-5. With 1 minute, 51 seconds left, he nailed a game-winning 32-yard field goal in Cimarron’s 17-14 home victory against rival Lakin. Aguilar had his right ankle heavily taped, and delivered a perfect boot that cleared the uprights with plenty of room.
“I took my steps and just trusted my teammates,” Aguilar said. “Just swung my foot. Didn’t even look at the ball, didn’t worry about that. Just trusted my teammates. I knew it was going to be there.”
Lakin drove down to the Cimarron 20-yard line with 10 seconds remaining. Bronc junior Hunter Davis nearly made a diving catch inside the 5-yard line. Officials ruled incomplete. The Broncs tried a game-tying 37-yard field goal from sophomore Caique Gallo. Lakin had attempted some extra points, although had never kicked a field goal in a big situation.
The try had the distance, though was wide right. Cimarron celebrated, while multiple Lakin players went to the ground. Lakin senior running back William Gilleland remained motionless. Last season, Cimarron won 18-14 in a game decided in the final minute. Cimarron junior fullback Hunter Renick labeled the last two contests in the series “instant classic.”
“We have trained as a team throughout this whole summer,” Gilleland said. “We had one goal in mind to get these guys back, but after we missed that, it just kind of all hit at once.”
Cimarron bumped to 6-0, 3-0 in Class 2A, District 7. Lakin dropped to 5-1, 2-1. The Bluejays also clinched the Hi-Plains League with the victory. The Bluejays have not lost in the regular season since Week 1 of 2018. Cimarron has won six in a row versus Lakin, three of those by a combined nine points.
“It’s tough,” Lakin coach Chris Bamberger said. “Because these kids have invested an unbelievable amount of time and effort to win games like this. And so when you invest as much as our kids have put in, it hurts. It burns.”
Both teams run a similar run-heavy, physical style that Renick labeled “the best show on natural grass.” Lakin senior Kayden Christiansen led with 16 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Broncs slowed Cimarron standout junior running back Tate Seabolt, who cleared 1,500 yards as a sophomore. He finished with 12 carries for 35 yards. However, Renick had 12 carries for 57 yards.
“This is running the ball,” Renick said. “This is nose to the grindstone, and this is everything you could ask for. This is some of the best football in Kansas.”
Cimarron never trailed and took an 8-0 lead on the game’s first drive. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Harrison threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to junior Charles Salyer. Lakin tied the game on the next possession on a two-yard run from sophomore quarterback Servando Gonzalez.
“It was tied at halftime, and I said, ‘We have got plenty in tank,’” Schartz said. “We have played four quarters. They haven’t. And probably because I was calling plays to keep us in ballgames to play in the fourth quarter, because I knew this one would go down to the fourth quarter. It’s just going to get tougher down the road.”
In the third quarter, Cimarron faced a 4th-and-1 on its own 29-yard line. Schartz decided to try for the first down, and the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Renick, the team’s vocal leader, ran left and gained 10 yards.
“I felt the whole city right on my back,” Renick said. “And I would never want to disappoint anybody in the stands, so I told myself, ‘You have got to get one yard, one yard.’ So I said, ‘Just run, run like you have never had before.’”
Later in the drive, Cimarron senior Payton Marshall got slightly behind the defense and caught a 38-yard touchdown pass down the middle with 3:36 left in the third quarter. Marshall finished with 10 offensive touches for 135 yards.
“His speed just really changed the dynamics of how we could defend them,” Bamberger said. “And he had some pretty big plays that really, really pushed our defense. Obviously, he had a fantastic game, as many of their guys did.”
On Lakin’s next drive, Christiansen, a Bethel College commit, sprinted 74 yards. Marshall chased him down and tackled him just short of the goal line.
“I was in shock,” Gilleland said.
Schartz called Marshall the player of the game.
“There is just no quit in that kid,” Schartz said. “There is just no quit. He is the most valuable player in western Kansas in my opinion.”
Lakin followed committed three consecutive penalties.
“The penalties got us after that,” Gilleland said. “That’s what really destroyed us right there. We have been like that all year. We have always had those stretches of just getting flag after flag after flag. As a team, we need to get better with that.”
Cimarron junior Clay Frink had a sack on fourth down.
“I saw him break the middle, and I just ran until I could catch him,” Marshall said. “He runs the 100-meter, and he is really fast. I didn’t think I could catch him, but I am glad I did. We run pursuit every day in practice, and that helps a ton. Just getting your angles.”
Lakin tied the game with 7:36 remaining on a 1-yard run from Christiansen. Cimarron stopped the Broncs’ on the two-point conversion.
On the following drive, Marshall delivered a 16-yard reception, and a 21-yard run. Cimarron had first down on the Lakin 19-yard line. The Bluejays gained four yards and brought in Aguilar after a timeout.
“I knew it was going to be a tight game,” Aguilar said. “And I figured it was going to come down to me.”