GREAT BEND, Kan. (KWCH) The big plays just kept coming in Friday’s Class 5A playoff game in Great Bend.
The Panther defense made several big stops, and senior quarterback Koy Brack completed a big pass that set up a touchdown after throwing an interception. Everything added up to a 31-7 win over Kapaun and a trip to Maize for round three next Friday.
“That’s what it’s all about this time of year is just survive and advance,” said Panther coach Erin Beck. “That’s what these kids did. I thought our offensive line did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage in the second half and we ran the football with Gage (Fritz) and Dalton (Miller). That was a thing of beauty to be able to grind out some first downs and the clock and go win it. Just hats off to our kids. That was a team win. It was offense, defense, and our kicker got involved. It was a lot of fun.”
Great Bend led just 10-7 at the half and Kapaun freshman Austin Ruda picked off a Brack pass to give the Crusaders a short field. Four plays later, on a fourth-and-one, Panther senior Blake Penka wrapped up Scott Valentas in the back field for a turnover on downs.
“The fourth down stop by Blake was the momentum changer,” Beck said. “Unbelievable job by our defense right there because you kind of felt it switch. They still had a chance. It was just a hard-fought, great game. We’re just very proud of our kids. What a great football game.”
Coming off the interception, Brack opened the ensuing drive with a 56-yard completion to Alex Schremmer down the Panther sideline. Miller ran it in from six yards out on the next play to put Great Bend in command for good at 17-7 with 3:47 remaining in the first half.
“I think my teammates just told me to shake it off and they had my back,” Brack said. “From there, we were just full step on the throttle. It was awesome. You can definitely tell that’s when the momentum changed.”
“We just had some success with some of those sticks out there to Alex,” said Beck. “We saw that they bit up a little bit but that kid didn’t bite at all so that was just Alex making a play. The guy really made a great play on him. Alex just outran him and Koy put it right on the money.”
The Panthers picked up a first down on about every other play to milk the clock before Brack punched it in from a yard out on the next drive. Great Bend capitalized on interceptions by juniors Alex Olivas and Joey Soupiset late in the game. The Olivas pick resulted in a touchdown run from Fritz for the final points of the night.
Valentas entered the night with 716 yards on 115 carries. The Panther defense rendered him largely ineffective with just 77 yards on 17 carries. Crusader senior Christian Werne scored the lone Kapaun touchdown on a 2-yard run on the first play of the second quarter for a 10-7 score.
Fritz had a career night as the team workhorse in a first-round win over Valley Center. Against Kapaun, he took the fourth play from scrimmage 41 yards for the first touchdown of the night just 80 seconds in. He added 102 yards in the second half to finish with 186 yards and two scores on 26 carries. Miller added 32 yards on seven carries.
“We thought that’s what they would do and that’s what they did,” Brack said of the defense. “They played the 2-high. We just took what they gave us. Gage and Dalton did a great job. The O-line was awesome.”
Brack, who is approaching 2,000 passing yards on the season, completed five of his six passes in the second half to finish with 136 yards on 10-of-14 passing. Schremmer caught six balls for 107 yards to surpass the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
Kapaun ends its season at 7-3. Great Bend moves to 8-2 heading into Friday’s game at Maize. The Eagles are 9-1 with a loss against Derby and a 35-0 win over Maize South in round two of the playoffs.