Blue Valley senior quarterback Luke Bernard had known Friday night he’d get a chance to try this play.
He needed to get out of the pocket, he needed to sprint several yards to his right and he needed to find senior wide receiver Ben DeZube over the heads of Olathe North’s line.
When he finally got the chance in the second quarter, trailing by four points with about 5 minutes remaining in the first half of the Kansas Class 6A sectionals in Stilwell, he executed the scheme to perfection. DeZube hauled in the short pass, ripped away from a trio of Olathe North defenders and ran the rest of the way for a 79-yard touchdown that returned the lead to the home team.
The Tigers never trailed again, and Blue Valley beat Olathe North 48-21 on a near-freezing evening in front of a crowd sheathed in coats and blankets.
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“He’s the fastest guy on the field. How could I not give it to him?” said Bernard, who was 17 of 29 passing for 268 yards. “It was desperation time. We were down 10 to 14 at that point and that play just flipped a switch and turned the whole play around for us.”
Blue Valley (8-3) will host Blue Valley North (7-4), which defeated No. 1 seed Shawnee Mission East (9-2) 45-10 on the road, on Nov. 17 for a spot in the state championship game.
Blue Valley beat BV North in the regular season, scoring 10 points in the final 1:06 for a 34-33 victory.
On Friday, Blue Valley jumped to a 7-0 lead 10:55 into the game after Olathe North fumbled the opening kickoff. Junior Brendan Barber recovered the ball at Olathe North’s 12, setting up a quick four-play drive that ended with Bernard finding Eric Olson for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
It wasn’t until Olathe North’s offense trotted onto the field for its fourth series that the Eagles found some traction. Junior Daymonn Sanchez found a seam along the home sideline in the second quarter and ran 48 yards for a touchdown.
Blue Valley inched toward the red zone on its ensuing drive, but could not increase a tenuous 10-7 lead. Instead, Olathe North’s Devin Stoker hauled in Bernard’s arcing pass in the end zone and took a knee for a touchback.
In the first play from scrimmage, Olathe North’s Sanchez escaped two tackles and raced 80 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10 advantage.
“They run the stretch sequence where they have basically two running backs in the backfield,” Blue Valley first-year coach Allen Terrell said. “We were running in our lateral gaps well, then they adjusted, turned their hips and cut back to us. He is so talented and fast. But our kids adjusted and we played it well in the second half.”
Junior running Alex Totta extended Blue Valley’s lead in the first drive of the second half by racking up 71 yards over four plays, including a 17-yard touchdown run. Blue Valley tacked on points with a 38-yard run by Olson, on junior Walter Kinney’s 70-yard pass to Cameron Green and on the second field goal of the night.
Olathe North’s Gunner Murphy made a 51-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes left in the game, but as he stumbled into the end zone, it was too little to make a dent in the score.
Blue Valley made it to the state championship game last year, its final season under late coach Eric Driskell.
With undefeated Bishop Miege and St. Thomas Aquinas also winning in their respective sectionals on Friday night, the Eastern Kansas League is guaranteed at least two spots in state championship games. Miege will have to beat the Frontier League’s De Soto for a second time this season to ensure all three of the top classes feature an EKL team.