Meade trips Centralia in 2-1A
By CONOR NICHOLL
Special to The Telegram
HAYS — On Oct. 12, the Meade High School football team defeated Wichita County by 47 points. On the way home, Buffalo senior quarterback Chris Hardaway found out his grandfather, Warren Hardaway, had died.
"I dedicate every game to him, because I love that man very much," Hardaway said.
On Saturday, Hardaway provided lasting memories when he engineered a remarkable comeback in the Class 2-1A state championship game at Fort Hays State University's Lewis Field Stadium.
Hardaway threw two touchdown passes in the final 2 minutes, 58 seconds and the Buffs defeated Centralia/Wetmore 28-25 for the title. The game-winning score came on a 24-yard pass from Hardaway to junior Jett Little in the back left side of the end zone with 36 seconds remaining.
"I honestly don't know how we came back and won that," Little said. "This is incredible. I still can't believe it. It hasn't sunk in yet."
Meade won its second state crown in three years after it defeated Pittsburg/St. Marys-Colgan in 2010. In each season, the Buffs lost in Week 1 and then won 12 straight contests. Meade coach Scott Moshier has won 122 games in 22 years as a head coach. Moshier recalled just one game, a late '90s contest when he coached at Hoxie, that had such a dramatic comeback. However, Saturday's game had much more on the line.
"It doesn't get very much sweeter than this," Moshier said. "It is just unbelievable."
Centralia, the defending state champions, was looking for its third crown in four years. The Panthers saw their 22-game winning streak end and finished 12-1.
"We just needed to make a play, and we couldn't get that play," Centralia coach Larry Glatczak said. "You always wish that you could get that one play, whether it's an interception or a fumble. Hats off to them. They are a heck of a football team. Hardaway is a nice football player. He made plays — he made plays at the end, and we didn't. That's what it came down to."
In a rare matchup of two single-wing teams, Centralia took a 25-14 lead with 4:44 left when junior quarterback J.T. Rosine rushed for a 27-yard score. Rosine collected 23 carries for 145 yards and two scores and completed 2-of-8 passes for 32 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Junior Sam Steinlage, who suffered a knee injury in last week's victory versus Lyndon, came back with 16 carries for 96 yards and a TD.
Down 11, Meade quickly went 62 yards in nine plays and covered 1:45 of the clock. Hardaway, who finished 8-of-18 passing for 85 yards and two scores and rushed for a team-best 112 yards, finished the drive with a 3-yard pass to Little.
Meade tried an onside kick, but Centralia recovered. After a Buffs' 15-yard penalty, Centralia took over at the Meade 38-yard line.
Three plays gave the Panthers a 4th-and-4. Centralia had executed a perfect pooch punt earlier in the game and tried again. This time, Meade's 6-foot-9 senior end Randy Friesen blocked Rosine's kick. The Buffs took over at their own 44-yard line with 1:36 left.
On 3rd-and-7, Hardaway found Friesen for a 27-yard gain down the right side.
On the next play, a third-and-15 from the 24-yard line, Hardaway lofted a pass in the back of the end zone for Little. He had gotten behind Panther junior Devin Rempe.
Centralia had a chance, but a 53-yard pass to Rempe was negated because of a penalty. Then, the Buffs picked off Centralia and ran out the clock, completing a stunning comeback. Hardaway wore a smile as he celebrated with his team and town, but started crying when he thought of his grandfather.
"It just means a lot being able to stick this out and win this for him," Hardaway said.