By KEVIN THOMPSON
MONTEZUMA — Undefeated and ranked fifth in 8-man Division I, South Gray found itself in an unfamiliar position.
Making the trek into the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Rebels hosted the Central Plains Oilers, (9-1 and ranked ninth) Saturday night in a quarterfinal battle.
Known more for making runs at state basketball titles, coach Jeff Blattner's Rebels looked to ride its prolific running game into the next round.
And they did it impressively, winning 52-6, holding the Oilers well below their 48 points per game average.
Coulter Croft's four touchdowns and 232 yards, and Wyatt Slaven's three scores, were more than enough to keep the Rebels' storybook season going another week.
South Gray has been successfully riding the duo, who now have 3,500 rushing yards and 65 touchdowns between them.
Central Plains, a consolidated school comprised of Claflin and Quivira Heights, came into this game averaging 276 yards a game on the ground, but the Rebels' defense forced the Oilers to take to the air in an almost-frantic attempt to stay in the game.
The Oilers' air attack, however, was grounded most of the night, connecting for just four passes on 15 attempts, suffering two interceptions.
South Gray ran for 390 yards while holding Central Plains to just 188.
South Gray dominated the first quarter, scoring on its first two possessions. Croft ran it in from 32 yards on the near side and Slaven from 18 out on the far side to give the Rebels a 14-0 lead.
Both teams ran 10 plays in that quarter, but the Rebels amassed 99 yards and held the Oilers to just 28.
Central Plains had chances in the second quarter but couldn't convert. They got the ball down to the 12 but three incomplete passes thwarted that drive. Then, Slaven intercepted his first of two Bryce Steiner passes on the next series.
That's just how things would go for the Oilers the rest of the night.
After a few minor adjustments at halftime, the Rebels came out on fire.
Croft broke two tackles at the line-of-scrimmage and raced into the end zone from 53 yards out to give the Rebels a 21-6 with 4:01 left in the third.
He added two more scoring runs of 64 and 37 yards, combining with Slaven's two to put the game out of reach.
The Oilers managed their only score early in the fourth period when Brimer ran it in from three yards out just two plays after nearly throwing another interception.
The Rebels were able to neutralize the Oilers' ground attack while capitalizing on their own.
"We just knew we were going to have to stop their running game and do ours the way we've been doing all years," Croft said. "Thanks to our offensive line, we did it."
Croft's big scoring runs came after breaking a tackle or two, then sprinting the rest of the way.
"I only have one guy to beat because of my line," he said.
Junior Colton Dirks helped anchor a solid defensive line that constantly rushed Steiner in the backfield and had six tackles for losses.
"They're a lot bigger than us," Dirks said. "Coach Blattner told us it was going to be tough, so we just gave it our all. We were successful."
Getting off blocks, especially in the second half, was one of the keys to the Rebels' success. Credit the defensive adjustments at halftime, Blattner said.
"We felt like we weren't sustaining blocks very well," he said. "So we made one or two minor blocking changes."
Central Plains (9-2) was a solid team, he said, and they were just bouncing off his team, so the adjustments were the key to the strong second half.
South Gray (10-0) will travel to Osborne, tentatively set for Friday. It's a long drive, Blattner said, but it beats the alternative of staying home.
The game plan will be pretty much the same, he said, with a few wrinkles thrown in.
"It's like the old saying, you dance with the one that brought you," he laughed.
"Our kids rose to the challenge tonight," he said. "It'll be tough leaving our home field; it's been good to us."
Central Plains 0 0 0 6 -- 6
South Gray 14 0 14 24 -- 52
SG--Croft 32 run (Slaven pass to Dirks), 9:08
SG--Slaven 18 run (run failed), 4:49
SG--Croft 53 (Croft run). 4:01
SG--Slaven 36 run (run failed), :06
CP--Steiner 3 run (pass failed), 10:06
SG--Croft 64 run (Slaven run), 9:1
SG--Croft 37 run (Slaven run), 8:17
SG--Slaven 5 run (Croft run), 1:47
First downs 11 9
Rushes-yards 38-155 46-390
Passing yards 4-15-33 0-1-1
Penalties-yards 4-30 4-55
Fumbles lost 1 1
RUSHING--Central Plains: Kirmer 13-58, Turner 9-37, Steiner 14-50; South Gray: Croft 20-232, Slaven 22-129. Gallegos 4-29.
PASSING--Central Plains: Brimer 4-15-2--33; South Gray Slaven 0-1-1--0.
RECEIVING--Central Plains: Kirmer 2-14, Turner 2-19.