By BRETT MARSHALL
SMITH CENTER — Even in what appeared to be a narrow 42-35 Smith Center victory over the Scott City Beavers on Saturday in the Class 3A regional championship at Hubbard Stadium, the numbers did not lie.
This was vintage Smith Center football and there wasn't much the Beavers could or did do to stop the wishbone offense that had produced five consecutive Class 2-1A state championships from 2004 to 2008 only to have that streak stopped last year by Centralia, 20-12, in overtime.
That loss to Centralia also ended a national-best 79-game winning streak.
First, there was the 464 yards rushing compiled by the Redmen, 212 by junior running back Truitt Kuhlmann and 184 yards by senior Kale Newell.
Second, there was the 72 rushing plays.
Third, was time of possession — Smith Center's 33:09 to Scott City's 14:51. This game was about control and for the most part, the Redmen were in the driver's seat.
Only a valiant effort by the big-play Beaver offense kept the game in doubt until the last two minutes, and even then Scott City went down swinging with everything they had in their offensive arsenal.
Smith Center, which has now gone without a home playoff loss since 2003, got off to an impressive start.
They scored two first-quarter touchdowns, the first on a 2-yard run by Zach Eaton that capped off a 16-play, 69-yard drive that occupied the first 6:51 of the game. The second possession produced points more quickly as Kuhlmann raced 61 yards untouched once he broke through the front line Beaver defenders.
Less than nine minutes in Scott City was down 13-0 and the Beavers had only run three offensive plays.
The offensive running display even had Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil shaking his head afterward.
"Geez, nobody has ever done that to us," said a disappointed Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil. "I've seen it on film, but to see it the way they did, well, they just came right at us. Their backs run downhill and they fight for those extra yards. The ball control just kept us in a hole all game."
Even for veteran Smith Center coach Roger Barta, who has nine state championships to his credit, the final score would have been difficult to predict.
"By far, it was our best game of the year, and it took every bit of it to win this game," Barta said. "It had to be that way for us to come out ahead. For the first time, we played like we thought we were capable and we still barely hung on. Scott's got a great team, but our backs ran hard and our offensive line was as good as they've been all season."
For the Beavers, it was the third straight year of heartbreaking losses in the playoffs. In 2008 and 2009, they lost in the quarterfinals in the last minute to Garden Plain and Wichita Collegiate.
They found themselves down 20-0 well into the second quarter when Eaton scored once again, this on a 1-yard plunge with 5:14 left before halftime.
Scott City, bewildered by it all, finally woke up and when they did it was game on.
On the first play from scrimmage following the Redmen's third TD, sophomore Dalton Buehler raced 69 yards on a quick pitch toss from Ron Baker and outraced the Redmen down the sideline. Brett O'Neil's PAT kick made it 20-7 with 4:58 to go.
A three-and-out for the Redmen put the Beavers back in business at the Redmen's 49 following Buehler's 21-yard punt return.
Facing fourth-and-five from the Smith Center 44, Baker slipped a swing pass into the hands of Colborn Couchman, who then took it to the outside and outran the Smith Center defenders to the endzone.
O'Neil booted the conversion point and it was 20-14 just 41 seconds before halftime.
Scott City had run just 11 plays from scrimmage at the break to Smith Center's 45. Possession time had been 4:31 versus 19:29.
"Considering how little we had the ball, we were really fortunate to have gotten back in the game," Baker said of the halftime score. "We had to make some adjustments but they just came too late."
It looked that way, too, when the second half kicked off with the Beavers on the receiving end.
Taking a cue from the Redmen, and looking like the team that had dominated in winning its previous 10 games, the Beavers went to work with their own running game, marching 77 yards in 11 plays and taking 5:12 off the clock. Couchman's 1-yard dive and O'Neil's PAT put the Beavers on top for the first, and only, time at 21-20 with 6:48 to play in the third.
With momentum seeming to have swung to Scott City, Smith Center showed its resolve and some moxie two possessions later as they drove 65 yards, aided by a personal foul penalty against the Beavers. Quarterback Alex Hobelman sneaked in from the 1-yard line and a Kuhlmann 2-point conversion run made it 28-21, Smith Center, with 1:07 to play in the third.
Scott City refused to go away and Buehler took a counter handoff from Baker and raced 45 yards for a TD and O'Neil's extra point boot knotted the score at 28-all with 11:05 left in the game.
The Redmen responded, this time quickly, as Kale Newell broke free for a 75-yard run on the third play that set up Kuhlmann's 4-yard score.
The PAT kick was blocked and it was 34-28 with 9:54 showing.
Scott City went nowhere and punted deep into Redmen territory. Another long, time-consuming drive (89 yards, 16 plays, 6:44) was enough as Newell scored on a 4-yard run with 1:30 to play and then added the 2-point conversion run, making it 42-28.
The Beavers, hoping for its own miracle finish, answered one more time when Baker and Braeden Robinson hooked up on an outside pass that resulted in a 15-yard score with 40.9 seconds on the clock. An onside kick failed and Smith Center ran out the clock.
For O'Neil, who has guided the Beavers to a sterling 38-0 record, the loss only strengthens his resolve for the season a year away.
"This will drive us to the weight room in the offseason to get bigger, stronger and quicker," O'Neil said.
For the 65-year-old Barta, nearing the end of his 33rd season at Smith Center (309-61), the victory perhaps quieted some of the critics after this year's team dropped two early season games to Phillipsburg and Norton.
"I think so," Barta responded when asked if fans had doubted this year's team. "Rightfully so to a point. This team has overcome a lot of advertsity with injuries, people in the hospital, death in our football family."
Smith Center, 8-2, advances to the quarterfinals next Friday with a home game against top-ranked Conway Springs, a 20-6 winner over Garden Plain. Scott City ends its season at 10-1.
By the numbers
Scott City 0 14 7 14 -- 35
Smith Center 13 7 8 14 -- 42
SmC — Eaton 2 run (Terrill kick), 5:09
SmC — Kuhlmann 61 run (kick blocked), 3:03
SmC — Eaton 1 run (Terrill kick), 5:14
ScC — Buehler 69 run (O'Neil kick), 4:58
ScC — Couchman 44 pass from Baker (O'Neil kick), :41.3
ScC — Couchman 1 run (O'Neil kick), 6:48
SmC — Hobelman 1 run (Kuhlmann run), 1:07
ScC — Buehler 45 run (O'Neil kick), 11:05
SmC — Kuhlmann 4 run (kick blocke), 9:54
SmC — Newell 4 run (Newell run), 1:30
ScC — Robinson 15 pass from Baker (O'Neil kick), :40.9
S. City S. Center
First Downs 9 20
Rushes-yards 26-238 72-464
Passing yards 103 0
Passes 6-13-0 0-1-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 5-51 2-15
Punts-avg. 4-44.5 2-41.5
T.O.P 14:51 33:09
Rushing — Scott City, Baker 6-79, Buehler 6-124, Smith 3-3, Williams 8-18, Couchman 3-14; Smith Center, McNary 5-11, Kuhlmann 28-212, Hobelman 2-10, Newell 23-184, Eaton 14-43.
Passing — Scott City, Baker 5-12-0--89, O'Neil 0-1-0--0; Smith Center, Hobelman 0-1-0--0.
Receiving — Scott City, Robinson 1-15, Hayes 2-30, Hess 1-13, Couchman 1-44; Smith Center, none.