Big plays lift Hiawatha past Eudora 4A in quarterfinals
Not all fairy tales have happy endings, and Eudoras Cinderella story ended Saturday night in front of about 4,000 fans.
The Hiawatha High Redskins knocked off the Eudora Cardinals 21-12, gained the regional championship crown and advanced to the state semi-final game against Fort Scott High, handing the Cards only their second loss of the season.
"We definitely had our chances. They just executed better than we did," said Coach Aaron Barnett. "Im not going to say our guys didnt execute, they just executed a little better."
A volatile, standing-room-only crowd packed Laws Field and watched as the Cardinals struggled to put the ball in the end zone for the first time since their regular season loss to Louisburg High in the second game of the season.
"It came down to who wanted it more," said senior Aaron Slavin. "As a team we really wanted it, but when it came to the end, they wanted it more."
But the loss didnt scar the outstanding season the Cards had. They made it further than any team in Eudora High history. They gained the Frontier League crown for the first time since 1972, captured the bi-district title at Bishop Ward and beat Basehor for the first playoff victory in school history.
"One game is not going to dampen our spirits," Barnett said. "I told the guys the one bad thing, if there is a bad thing about being one of the 16 teams that make the playoffs, is that only one team is going to end it on a win."
Eudora started out tough, forcing the Redskins to go three-and-out on their first drive, setting up a drive culminated by a 2-yard Brian Harris touchdown V his first of two on the night.
But the blocked extra point signaled a switch in momentum that the Cards would battle to regain for the rest of the game.
The Cards couldnt stop the big plays that proved to be the deciding factors in the otherwise evenly matched game.
Hiawatha rebounded from the Cardinal touchdown and, after 52 yards on the ground, Hiawatha quarterback Lincoln Hillyer found senior Charlie Stinson in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown pass. The Redskins capitalized on the extra point, took the lead and never looked back. The big plays kept coming.
Hillyer broke free in the second quarter and ran the length of the field for a 77-yard touchdown that quieted the explosive Eudora stadium and put the Redskins ahead 14-6 at halftime.
"Their guys were stronger," said senior Blane Christenson, who was sidelined after tearing his ACL in the game against Bishop-Ward High. "Their guys didnt miss tackles, and they made us miss."
Junior Lear Bowling added to his first half interception, recovering back-to-back Redskin turnovers V one fumble and one interception V keeping the Cards alive in the second half. The second interception lead to Harris second touchdown, a three-yard rush that brought hope back to the faltering Cardinal team.
But the offense couldnt capitalize on the field position the defense handed to them. Harris rushed for 123 yards in 34 carries and Zac Tyler added another 67 yards in 13 carries, but the Cards only crossed the goal line twice and couldnt convert on the PATs.
"They were able to make big plays and we werent," Harris said.
With 4:14 to play, the ball on the Hiawatha 17 yard line, and Eudora down 12-14, senior Martin Krumbach lined up for a field goal that would have thrust the Cards into the lead for the first time since the second drive of the game.
It sailed wide left, stopping the momentum the Cards had started to regain, making way for an 80 yard explosion by Hiawatha senior Barry Korthanke that proved to be the dagger in the heart of the Cardinals.
Emotions ran high as the Cards, led by seniors Harris, Krumbach, Slavin, Christenson, Hamlin, Sam Campbell, John Powers, Neil Dunavin, Brent Whitten, Brett Becker and Steve Krutz, thanked for the last time the capacity crowd for a season of support.
Those seniors walked off the field, leaving a strong group of underclassman, led by junior quarterback Ronnie Morelan, juniors Zac Tyler, Tommy Stein and Tommy Shutt and sophomore Tyler Jackson, to step up into the drivers seat and try to go even further next season.
"Next year were not going to sneak up on anybody, people are going to be shooting for us," Barnett said. "Weve got to work a little harder in the off-season and be ready to meet the challenge."