Dodge City coach Dave Foster didn’t see any flatness from his team during the week. At 3 p.m. on Friday, though, Foster observed the change - four hours before his undefeated Red Demons faced one-win Haysville Campus.
Campus led twice in the first half. Dodge City eventually took a one-point lead with 2 minutes, 58 seconds remaining before intermission on an impressive 42-yard sideline scoring run from junior running back Alden Knedler. Dodge City quickly scored again in the second quarter and steadily pulled away for a 34-13 victory Friday at Memorial Stadium.
“Something was different, because everything we’ve gotten this year we have earned, we have scratched, we have clawed,” Foster said. “We are not overly talented. We are not overly sized, so we have done things with a lot of heart, and when you’ve become complacent, you look complacent, and I thought that’s how we started.”
Dodge City, the No. 2 seed in Class 6A West, improved to 9-0, a three-win jump from last year. Campus, the No. 15 seed, ended the year at 1-8. DC had defeated the Colts, 34-12, on the road in the season opener. DC, ranked seventh in the 6A CIK poll, has enjoyed its best season since an 11-1 mark in 2010.
This marked the first time since a pair of meetings against Manhattan in 1984 that DC had faced the same team twice in a fall.
“We were flat,” coach Foster said. “You can’t all of a sudden flip a switch, and it’s a valuable learning experience for our guys, and I hate it, because we have such a great group of leaders.”
Dodge City again played without two of its senior captains in all-purpose threat John Johnson (collarbone) and defensive end Jashon Taylor (knee). Taylor has missed four weeks, Johnson three. Their status remains uncertain for next Friday’s Round of 16 home contest versus Junction City (7-2). Dodge City defeated JC, 25-15, in Week 9 last season.
“Our mentality,” senior quarterback Beau Foster said. “Honestly, we came out with the wrong mindset, and that’s honestly on me. I need to be a better leader, and so next week, that won’t happen again. We are going to come out ready to play.”
Campus sophomore quarterback Braelyn Joy delivered a 45-yard run on the game’s first play. The Colts quickly drove down to the Red Demon 2-yard line, but Dodge City stopped Campus on three straight plays on a goal line stand. Then, Dodge City went 15 plays to the Colt 22-yard line, but sophomore Jose Valverde missed a 39-yard field goal into the wind.
Campus took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter with a 30-yard scoring run from junior Jakob Dorton. Later in the quarter, Dodge City elected to punt from the Colt 38-yard line and kicked the ball into the end for a touchback. On the next play, DC senior Josh Harshberger recovered a fumble at the Colt 19-yard line with 7:42 left in the first half.
“That offensive tackle, he just blocked down on me, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a ball,” Hashberger said. “I was like, ‘Shoot, maybe I should go for it.’ And then I dove on the ground, and then I lost it, and then I found it, and it all just went from there.”
“Turnovers have been huge all year,” Beau Foster added. “And that one might have been the biggest one of the year.
Three plays later, Beau Foster scored on a three-yard run, and Dodge City tied the game at seven.
“We were moving the ball well on the ground, and I think you give us a short field, we are able to capitalize there,” coach Foster said. “I think that was kind of a critical turning point, because it was almost like we were going to be needed to be granted a break, and we weren’t really creating a lot of our own breaks.”
However, Campus scored on the next possession on a 57-yard pass play from Joy to 6-foot-5 junior Tate Rico. The Colts missed the extra point for a 13-7 advantage at the 5:09 mark of the second quarter. Six plays later, Knedler delivered his highlight reel run down the left side. He broke three tackles, including bowling over a player.
“I will remember that one forever,” Knedler said. “I couldn’t have done that without everybody on that team just doing a part. It was a fun one.”
Often, Dodge City has needed to use the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Knedler as a blocker for Beau Foster. Coach Foster has wanted to split carries to keep Beau healthy. Entering the game, DC averaged 190 rushing yards a contest. Versus Campus, Knedler finished with 25 carries for 181 yards. Foster tallied 32 carries for 148 yards.
“Alden is a powerful runner, and so tonight allowed us to get him more touches,” coach Foster said.
Dodge City frequently used jumbo packages that included a pair of tight ends and two blocking backs with sophomores Santonio Turner (5-11, 235) and Christian Erives (5-9, 238). DC had not yet shown the two tight end look.
“We knew that they were going to come out and fight because they had nothing to lose,” Knedler said. “We settled down, and like ‘we’re a better football team.’ We go play smashmouth football, and we just ran down their throats.”
DC has shown the two blocking backs as a change-of-pace scheme since Week 1, a look that helped the Red Demons burn clock in several wins. Turner has enjoyed a big year at nose guard and finished with three tackles for loss, including a sack.
“He’s a powerful kid, and he has got a motor that he brings it every snap,” coach Foster said. “We traditionally don’t have him in that much offense as we did tonight, but honestly, when we find success in the ground game, believe me, I love double tight (end), three backs in the backfield, and just bring it downhill. And if we are able to move the ball with that, fine.
“But at some point, no team can do that through and through,” he added. “We are going to face teams that are more physical than us. We’ve faced more physical teams on several occasions through the course of the year.”
Then, Dodge City forced a quick Campus punt. Beau Foster hit junior Matt Friess for a 51-yard pass that set up an eight-yard scoring run from Knedler with 42.1 seconds remaining in the first half. DC led 21-13 at halftime.
Beau Foster had passed for 1,386 yards, easily the best in the Western Athletic Conference. He finished 4 of 8 passing for 94 yards.
“Our base offense, our spread up tempo, we have got to be able to function in that manner, but we have got to bring an edge to our game, to elevate it, to play at that speed,” coach Foster said.
In the third quarter, Campus had its own goal line stand at its 1-yard line. Foster delivered a one-yard run with 7:56 left in the contest. He threw a nine-yard TD pass with 1:20 remaining. Dodge City and No. 1 Derby remain the two undefeated teams in 6A. Afterward, coach Foster reminded his team they will need a better performance in Week 10.
“Nobody wants this thing to end,” coach Foster said. “Tonight we have to learn from it, or I told them, ‘There will be 48 more minutes of play, and we will be done.’ We have to learn from this, to elevate our play or life won’t last long in the playoffs, not in 6A.”