By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
The St. Mary’s-Colgan Panthers didn’t appear to have any answer for Neodesha’s running game.
Neodesha quarterback Justice Baird and running back Hayden Dierks each rushed for more than 100 yards in the first half, combining for three touchdown runs.
But a different Colgan defense came out of the locker room. The Panthers limited the Bluestreaks running game, picked off three passes and held Neodesha scoreless in the second half to capture a 34-20 win Tuesday night at Hutchinson Field.
The victory moves the Panthers (7-3) to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs and sets up a home playoff game Saturday against Humboldt.
Neodesha (7-3) held a 20-14 halftime lead, but Colgan defensive coordinator Wayne Cichon rallied the kids in the second half to slow down the Bluestreaks’ option attack. Colgan coach Chuck Smith said the play of defensive tackle Tieler Commons also was crucial.
“Coach Cichon does a good job,” Smith said. “Tieler Commons really had his best ball game and really played well. He was playing like he wanted to play this Saturday. The rest of the kids just made some good hits. We bent a bit, but I thought we had a great half. We beat a real good Neodesha team.”
It was a bit of track meet early.
The Bluestreaks scored on their first play from scrimmage on a 67-yard touchdown run around the end by Baird. Colgan responded three plays later on a 75-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Dyson Dechant to Conner Dayton and knotted the game at 7.
Dierks later scored on a 74-yard touchdown run and Baird scored from 10 yards out to take a 20-14 lead at the 1:10 mark of the second quarter. Dierks ran for 124 yards in the first half and Baird had 107 yards.
Colgan limited the duo to less than 20 yards in the second half.
“They mixed it up quite a bit,” Neodesha coach John Black said. “We got away from our game plan and shouldn’t have. We had a lot of kids banged up and was trying not to give the ball so many times to the guys who were dinged up. So we tried to move it around, but it wasn’t successful. We needed to do what we were doing to begin with.”
With the running game slowed down, Neodesha was forced to turn to the air.
The Panthers answered by intercepting three passes, including two for touchdowns. Colgan junior Luke Marquardt’s 42-yard interception return gave the Panthers a 27-20 lead with 9:44 left in the game.
“I really got my drop and I felt like I had my eyes with the quarterback and he threw it right in the flat and I was able to take it to the house,” Marquardt said. “Our linebackers did a nice job blocking on that.”
On Neodesha’s next possession, Colgan’s Austin Commons picked off Baird’s pass and returned it 55 yards for the score and a 34-20 lead.
Drew Dawson sealed the win on Neodesha’s next possession by intercepting Baird’s pass in the end zone.
“All three were crucial,” Smith said.
“Turnovers are big. Luke Marquardt picked his off and Austin Commons, what a great catch that was. The way he played with it, I thought maybe it hit the ground. But then he takes off. The Neodesha kid had a chance to catch him, but Austin broke a tackle and took it in. Boy, those were big plays.”