EMPORIA, Kan. — Be certain of this: No one who stopped by Welch Stadium on Saturday for the Kansas Class 5A championship game nodded off in the stands.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
Blue Valley, behind a scintillating day by senior Logan Brettell, scored on its first play from scrimmage, and the Tigers’ 27-26 win wasn’t assured until Salina South’s Mitch Roets was tackled on the Blue Valley 27 with all zeros on the scoreboard clock.
The Tigers, 10-3, captured their sixth state championship and their first since 2010.
“This was closer than I would like, but we put it together and played our hearts out,” said Tigers senior receiver Mikey Henson, who had seven catches for 106 yards and a TD. “It was a great way to end the season.”
Brettell had a hand in all 27 Blue Valley points, throwing a touchdown pass, rushing for two TDs and booting two field goals and three extra points.
Brettell’s kickoff to start the game sailed into the end zone. Then in a omen of the wild times that were in store, Salina South quarterback Justin Stonebreaker’s pass was intercepted by Blue Valley cornerback Brandon Lee at the Cougars’ 29.
On Blue Valley’s first play from scrimmage, Brettell found Henson in the end zone for a touchdown just 10 seconds into the game.
Before the end of the first quarter, Blue Valley snagged another turnover when strong safety Ryan Cyr intercepted a Stonebreaker pass, returning it 27 yards to the 14.
That drive stalled, and Brettell toed a 27-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
Salina South got on the scoreboard with 10:51 left in the first half on an 18-yard run by Mike Jones, but the Cougars missed the placement.
Blue Valley then struck for two quick scores in the half’s fading moments. Brettell reached the end zone on an 18-yard run with 2:44 left and again on a 5-yard run with 48 seconds remaining.
“We missed opportunities in the first half,” Tigers coach Eric Driskell said. “I wish we could have had some of those possessions back.”
With 14 seconds left in the third quarter, Brettell booted a 20-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 27-6 lead.
It was all prologue for Salina South’s fourth-quarter rally.
Jones cut the lead to 27-26 on a three-yard run with 1:13 left.
The Cougars went for a two-point conversion, putting wide receiver Zach Nachbar in motion and pitching it to him. His pass intended for Roets was well short of the mark.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by linebacker Drew Heffernon, but the Tigers didn’t get a first down. Brettell’s punt rolled dead at the Salina South 18 setting up a furious final 50 seconds.
Stonebreaker was able to complete a 36-yard pass to Nachbar to his own 41 before the final play, Roets’ 32-yard reception.
Brettell rushed for 82 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns and completed 13 of 19 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown.
Reflecting on the state championship, he said, “I can’t put into words what this means. This is the greatest accomplishment in my life.”