John Schultz and Nolan Gray, sitting in an empty classroom after their Bishop Miege High School classmates depart for Thanksgiving break, are shaking their heads. They are thinking back to their toughest moment as seniors on the Stags’ football team.
It was week three of the season, and Bishop Miege had just lost to Blue Valley, 42-35.
Schultz says he had tears streaming down his face after the game. It was the Stags’ first loss in 15 games and, suddenly, they began to realize defending their Kansas Class 4A Division I state title might not be a guarantee.
“It was a really tough loss, especially with it having been such a long time,” Schultz said. “After a little while, I think we all realized that it was — in a way — good for us. We kind of needed to lose to show us that we are not going to win every game, and we need to play like” we know that.
It was a turning point for the football squad. Bishop Miege hasn’t lost since and rides a nine-game winning streak into the state championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Stags will play Andover Central at Hummer Sports Park in Topeka.
Following the loss to Blue Valley, Miege defeated St. Thomas Aquinas 41-21 and that victory sparked the winning streak. During those nine games, Miege has held its opponents to 21 or fewer points. Offensively, Miege has averaged 58.1 points per game during that same span.
Both Schultz and Gray say that — to find the real inspiration for Miege’s success this year — you might even have to look farther back than the loss to Blue Valley.
You’d have to look back to the 2012 Bishop Miege football team, which started its season 2-4 but won five of the next six games and advanced to the state championship game. Despite the fact Miege lost to Emporia in the state final in Miege coach Jon Holmes’ first year at the helm, that setback had a silver lining. It taught the current Stags what it takes to win. Miege has a 33-3 record in three years since and takes an 11-1 record into Saturday’s state final.
“It set the tone (and showed us) that is how you are supposed to play,” Gray said. “The past games don’t matter. You have to play your best each game, and it will turn out well.”
Gray credits Holmes and his crew of assistants for the turnaround. Holmes inspires his players with the hours he spends studying tape and his leadership with a balanced offensive attack.
Miege brings to the state title game a passing attack that has produced 3,145 yards and 36 touchdowns, and a rushing threat that has manufactured 2,848 yards and 55 touchdowns this season. The Stags have outscored opponents 674-197.