As the season winds down, the games get more important. As the game winds down, things get a bit more exciting.
Such was the case for Scott City, the state’s top team in Class 4A-II, as the Beavers turned a long road trip into a 21-13 win over Clay Center in sectional play.
The Beavers (11-0) advance to the semifinal game next Friday at Holcomb (10-1), which was a 26-6 winner at Smoky Valley Friday.
The Beavers picked up 330 yards in total offense (286 on the ground), and the defense held Clay Center to just 162. Scott City controlled both sides of the ball, running 68 plays to Clay Center’s 32.
On their three scoring drives, the Beavers ran 36 total plays and took 17:26 off the clock. But, despite trailing 21-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the Tigers, who came back from two touchdowns last week to get a win, made it exciting, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make it close.
In its previous two games, Scott City had to come back from two touchdowns down to get the wins. Friday, the Beavers were the aggressors — and made the lead stick.
Jarret Jurgens capped a 16-play drive with a 6-yard run to give the Beavers a 7-0 lead at the 7:53 mark of the second quarter. That drive consumed 7:43 over 68 yards in a run-oriented first half as the two teams ran the ball a combined 38 times.
Both teams went three-and-out on their first drives, and the Beaver defense forced the same on the Tigers’ next possession, before running that scoring drive.
Last week, Scott City opened the second half by throwing an interception on the first play. This week, the Beavers scored on a nine-play drive to open the half.
Once again, it was Jurgens with the heroics, following blockers early and scampering 30 yards for the score and a 14-0 lead at the 7:29 mark of the third quarter.
Wyatt Hayes surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for his second straight season, picking up 92 yards on 20 carries. The junior scored Scott City’s third touchdown of the night from two yards out with :08 left in the third.
That capped an 11-play, 84-yard drive, helped by two huge pass plays from quarterback Parker Gooden. The sophomore, who picked up a first down with a 16-yard run, hit Marshall Faurot for a leaping grab for 20 yards, followed by a 19-yarder to Parker Volgamore.
That set up Hayes for a personal three-play, 28-yard trio of runs for the Beavers’ final score.
Clay Center, which had come back from 14-0 down last week to defeat Nickerson, scored on the first play after that, a 44-yard pass from Parker Lane to Connor Last to cut the lead to 21-7.
After Scott City had to punt on its next possession, the duo hooked up again, with Last catching a 19-yard strike to cut the lead to 21-13.
Getting out and holding the lead felt good, coach Jim Turner said, especially following the slow starts the past two games.
“We played pretty good on defense. We only gave up about three or four big pass plays that cost us 13 points, but other than that we played really well on defense the whole game,” he said.
He wasn’t happy with his team’s nine penalties, especially the six on offense, but he liked the 68-32 play differential.
Clay Center finished the season 7-4, with all four losses coming at home.
Scott City will travel to Holcomb Friday for the right to go to state. The winner of the game will face the winner of Topeka-Hayden vs. Frontenac in Salina on Nov. 25.
The Beavers overcame a 14-0 first-half deficit at home against Holcomb in week two to get a 23-14 win, the Longhorns’ only loss of the season.
It will be a battle between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the class.
“They’re going to be tough,” Turner said of their league opponent and long-time rival Holcomb. “They’ve got a really good team and really good skill kids. They’re hard to match up with. We’re going to have to play really well.”
What happened in week two doesn’t really matter, he added.
“We’ll have to go in a play really well. A lot better than we did tonight because the penalties were costly,” Turner said. “But we got the win. I told them I was proud of them. They played hard,” he added. “It wasn’t a perfect game, but the scoreboard was pretty good at the end.”