For all of the offense and high-flying receptions that came with Blue Valley’s match-up with Bishop Miege Friday, it was defense that sealed the deal.
With Blue Valley barely holding onto a seven-point lead with 5 minutes remaining Friday night, cornerback Brody Jacobsen snagged an interception off of Miege quarterback Carter Putz, ending a potential game-tying drive.
And when Miege had one more shot, on fourth and 8 with 1:44 left in the game, it was defensive end Max Molitor who burst through the line and knocked the ball loose from Putz.
Blue Valley took over possession and held on for a 35-28 victory.
It was about as adrenaline-charged of a game as expected for two teams playing with something to prove on the first week of the Kansas high school football season.
Bishop Miege may have won a Kansas Class 4A, Division I state title, but its loss to Blue Valley in Week 3 last year spoiled what would have otherwise been an undefeated season.
Blue Valley lost in last year’s Class 6A championship game and spent an offseason remembering the bitterness.
“It was like a heavyweight battle,” Blue Valley coach Eric Driskell said. “It could have gone either way.”
The two spent Friday trading jabs, each determined to have the last laugh.
A full shootout developed in the second half, with four touchdowns scored in the third quarter. Miege took a 21-14 lead on Putz’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Winklhofer, followed by a Cameron Clark two-point conversion.
William Evans punched in a 1-yard Blue Valley touchdown with 4:47 remaining in the third quarter for a 21-21 tie.
“He runs hard and their wide receivers spread us out and got us in some bad matchups where we had some one-on-one plays,” Miege head coach Jon Holmes said. “Will did a great job running the football.”
A couple of receivers weren’t content with the 21-21 tie, though.
Miege only needed two plays — one being a 65-yard touchdown reception by star receiver Jafar Armstrong — to take a 28-21 lead.
But Gus Gomez, who finished the game with three touchdown receptions for Blue Valley, brought down his most crucial one with 2:20 to play in the third quarter. His 34-yard grab in the end zone put the teams in a 28-28 tie, this one lasting into the fourth quarter.
“Gus was really that good last year, but we just didn’t throw the ball as much,” Driskell said. “Our strength this year is throwing the ball more and being more balanced.”
That balance came in the form of Evans, who rampaged for 228 total rushing yards. He charged through the goal line again with 9 minutes remaining, and the extra point gave the Tigers a 35-28 lead.
That breathing room never really felt like much, with as many offensive weapons as Miege had. But it was just enough to allow Jacobsen and Molitor the chance to make their marks.
To Miege, the sting was all too familiar.
“The one loss we had last year was this exact same team,” Holmes said. “Our guys are obviously upset and hurt.”