TOPEKA — Sometimes, statistics can be misleading, but that wasnt the case in the Kansas Class 6A state title game Saturday at Washburns Yager Stadium.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Shawnee Mission Wests second-half defensive stats paint an accurate and vivid picture.
Hutchinson, which had won seven state titles over the previous eight seasons, ran 20 plays and gained 50 yards after halftime as the Vikings rallied for a 19-14 victory, securing the programs first state crown since 1985.
That dominance stood in stark contrast to the 25 carries for 194 yards the Salthawks racked up on the ground before halftime in building a 14-6 lead.
Obviously, we needed to make some improvements, but it was more of an attitude-type thing, SM West linebacker Cooper Arner said. We wanted to win, so we knew we had to get after it. The first half, we were asleep a little. But the second half, we woke up and did our jobs.
The Vikings, 12-1, opened the third quarter by holding Hutch to a three-and-out, which set up their offense at the Salthawks 44-yard line after a shanked 23-yard punt.
Four plays later, quarterback A.J. Verdini scored on a 1-yard sneak that made it a two-point game 4 minutes, 33 seconds into the second half and the Vikings defense was just getting warmed up.
Linebacker Marquan Osbey ended Hutchinsons subsequent drive with a fumble recovery. When the Salthawks next got the ball, the SM West defense forced another three-and-out.
Switching to the wildcat formation on offense with senior Brett Sterbach, who finished with 34 carries for 273 yards, and Maloney lined up together in the backfield, SM West went in front to stay on Maloneys nifty 19-yard touchdown run that left a trail of Hutchinson tacklers grasping at air.
The Vikings defense made sure it stood up, while the offense sealed the win with a 12-play, 76-yard march that melted away the games final 5:39.
It was really execution, SM West coach Tim Callaghan said. Offensively, we didnt have the execution we needed in the first half, and it was a little better in the second half. Defense was the same way. They stopped getting those runs that were gouging us and we started slowing them down a little bit.
Sterbach, who needed 45 yards to reach 2,000 for the season entering play, hurdled a Salthawks defender on the first play from scrimmage, cutting back for a 75-yard touchdown run, which had the Vikings in front 6-0 only 19 seconds into the game.
I told my friends before the game, I said, I guarantee the first play of the game Im breaking that 2,000-yard mark, said Sterbach, who finished the season with 322 carries for 2,228 yards. And I did.
Hutchinson, 10-3, countered almost as quickly with Colby Turners 3-yard plunge for the go-ahead score after kicker Kassidy Lemons extra point, but after that points became considerably tougher to come by before halftime.
The only hiccup came midway through the second quarter.
Moments after a goal-line stand by the defense, Sterbach fumbled the ball back to Hutchinson, which got a 1-yard sneak from Turner two plays later for a 14-6 lead.
It doesnt matter now, because we overcame everything, said senior safety Kez Demby, who had an interception and fumble recovery for SM West. Its been that way all season, but its been a great journey all the way through.