After taking a 7-point lead into the half, Kearney was able to capitalize on a pair of second-half turnovers and pull away for a 28-7 victory against Staley on Monday night for the regional championship.
“That was huge to get us some breathing room,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said of the two turnovers. “The defense created a lot of turnovers tonight and gave us a short field. In the second half, we were able to capitalize on that.”
Those were two of the five turnovers — two interceptions and three fumbles — forced by the Kearney defense. The Bulldogs, who beat Staley 42-0 a month ago, only turned it over twice.
In the third quarter, Kale Harmon intercepted Staley quarterback Jordan Robben at the 11-yard line. It took Kearney just five plays, including a 36-yard rush by Brock Broughton, to take it to the Staley 2-yard line, setting up a touchdown run by Broughton.
Staley fumbled on the next possession and Alex Ivy picked it up and tossed it to Broughton, who ran it in from the 24 for his third touchdown of the night. Broughton, who is committed to play next season at Western Illinois, finished with 148 yards in 37 carries for the Bulldogs.
“We came out more physical,” Broughton said of the second half. “The line said they were going to out-physical them, and I always tell them if they give me a seam, I will go.”
Kearney took an early lead in the first quarter with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Austin Hink to Johnny Laughlin. Staley’s TJ Molway returned the kick for 58 yards to the Kearney 28, which set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Robben to tie the score.
However, Staley fumbled on the next possession and Ivy recovered at the 27-yard line. Seven plays later, Kearney took back the lead when Broughton scored on a 3-yard run.
With the victory, Kearney advanced to face undefeated Fort Osage, who defeated Winnetonka 42-7, for a spot in the quarterfinals next Saturday.