Hutchinson holds off Blue Valley for 5A crown
EMPORIA It was on this field, at Welch Stadium, that Hutchinson senior Austin Ketchum watched his older brother, Chad Stieglitz, become a state champion football player for the Salthawks.
Ketchum was on hand when Hutchinsons astonishing state title streak started, the first of six won in 2004, and he was there last season when it came to an end.
Hutchinsons invincibility vanished. While there were several motivating factors behind the latest run, culminating in Saturdays Class 5A championship game against Blue Valley, maybe the strongest driving force was Hutchinsons desire to prove itself again.
This was not Randy Dreilings strongest, fastest or most talented team, but it found a common denominator on Saturday the Salthawks became
state champions once again, defeating Blue Valley 33-21 for their seventh title in the last eight seasons.
I remember being here and watching him win the first one, Ketchum said of his brother. I was just so proud of him. I was proud of everything he did. I feel like I did this for my brother. I love him.
Ketchum exemplified the Salthawks effort on Saturday. He was playing with two separated shoulders, yet still produced a sack. He was one of many trying to live up to the past.
It all has to do with expectations and pride in the program, Dreiling said. These guys have seen what its like to win one and last year they saw what it was like to not win one. If youre this close now, then why not? Why not get it done?
Hutchinsons ground-and-pound offense was much better suited for the whipping winds on Saturday than Blue Valleys spread attack.
That became obvious when the Salthawks needed 12 plays all runs to move 161 yards and score three times for a 20-0 first-quarter lead.
But adversity began to build in the second quarter. Starting quarterback Trevor Turner, who finished with 100 yards on four carries, was lost for the game on a knee injury.
Dreiling entrusted senior Lucas Munds, who started at fullback, to protect the lead. Munds shifted to a distributor, as JaMon Cotton fought through a hamstring injury to play the final three quarters.
I havent taken reps at quarterback since probably Week 4, said Munds, who finished with 115 yards. I was nervous going in. But taking the reps over the years, even if you havent done it in awhile, it kind of sticks in your head.
Tanner Higgins was there to stifle any momentum Blue Valley could gain before the half. He ran untouched to block a punt that Tyler Cox recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, and intercepted a Kyle Zimmerman pass to preserve Hutchinsons 27-7 lead.
But with a decimated backfield, Hutchinson could only hold on for so long.
Our hand was showing a little bit there the second half, Dreiling said. They knew we were gonna run the ball up the middle with our back-up quarterback in there.
Blue Valleys defense began to snuff out Hutchinsons attack, and its offense carried over with the momentum. Two Justin Fulks touchdown runs vaulted Blue Valley back in it, trailing 27-21 with 3:41 left.
With a state championship on the line, Dreiling called for an option pitch from Munds to Cotton. It was the ultimate sign of trust, as Munds had not played quarterback in weeks and Cotton was running on a bum hamstring.
But when presented with unfavorable situations, Hutchinson has made it a habit of converting. Cotton took the pitch in stride and made it around end for a 45-yard touchdown to seal the victory.
Weve had so many great teams in the past, Higgins said. To do what theyve done, to follow in their footsteps, this is just indescribable.
Dreiling agreed it was one of his and his staffs better coaching jobs, describing it as pretty special.
There was nothing left for Ketchum to say. All he needed was to make a phone call.
I cant wait to tell him, said Ketchum, grinning at the prospects of informing his brother. Hes going to be so proud.
Hutchinson (11-2) 20 7 0 6 33
Blue Valley (11-2) 0 7 7 7 21
HMunds 29 run (Maciel kick)
HTurner 39 run (Maciel kick missed)
HTurner 1 run (Maciel kick)
BVFulks 72 pass from Zimmerman (Johnson kick)
HCox 0 blocked punt return (Maciel kick)
BVFulks 37 run (Johnson kick)
BVFulks 3 run (Johnson kick)
HCotton 45 run (Cotton run failed)
RushingHutchinson, Cotton 22-137, Munds 26-115, Turner 4-100, Brower 5-49, Higgins 3-38, Team 2-(-12); Blue Valley, Fulks 16-65, Reinkemeyer 1-4, Zimmerman 13-(-1).
PassingHutchinson, Munds 0-1-0-0; Blue Valley, Zimmerman 12-25-1-212.
ReceivingHutchinson, none; Blue Valley, Skaggs 7-80, Fulks 1-72, Reinkemeyer 2-34, Perkins 1-17, Katsorelos 1-9.