Meade runs past La Crosse in 34-12 Class 2-1A state playoff victory
By CONNOR NICHOL
Special to The Telegram
MEADE — All day, Meade High School senior quarterback Chris Hardaway was antsy for Friday's Class 2-1A sub-state home contest versus La Crosse. Two years ago, Meade defeated the Leopards in the second round of the playoffs en route to the state championship. Last year, La Crosse won at Meade in the second round, ended the Buffs' 22-game winning streak, and finished as state runner-up.
"I couldn't stop moving because I was just ready to get out there," Hardaway said.
Hardaway, the Buffs' three-year starting quarterback, helped the Buffs bounce back from last season's loss. Meade controlled the game throughout and collected a 34-12 victory.
Hardaway rushed for three touchdowns and senior Trevin Wiens tallied 23 carries for 189 yards and a 76-yard run for the game's first score.
Meade continually broke tackles all game, mainly with Hardaway, Wiens and senior running back Jett Little. The trio all weigh under 186 pounds.
"We had a hard time making the tackle with the first guy," La Crosse coach Jon Webster said. "I thought we had guys in position, slipped off or didn't quite wrap up. A couple of times we hit Wiens really hard in the hole, but we didn't wrap up and he was able to bounce and spring it."
Meade, ranked No. 2 in the classification, moved to 11-1 and won its 11th straight contest.
"It means everything," coach Scott Moshier said. "We didn't want to say revenge. We got our tails handed to us last year here at home on this field."
La Crosse, 2-1A's top-ranked team, ended the season at 11-1. The last two seasons have marked the lone appearances in the sub-state round in school history.
"I am just proud of playing in this program for all four years and growing up with these guys," La Crosse senior fullback/linebacker Kip Keeley said. "This senior class is something that I will never forget. Just once in a lifetime thing."
Meade will play Centralia for the state championship next week at Fort Hays State University's Lewis Field Stadium. Centralia won titles in 2009 and '11, while Meade won the title in '10. Meade has now won 70 games in the seven-year Moshier era.
"Our kids, we wanted this pretty bad," Moshier said. "I told them, 'You have to remind (La Crosse) every snap how bad you want this and what your will is to win this game, and we were able to do that. It's just unbelievable."
Meade scored on the game's second play when Wiens broke through with the 76-yard run when he broke tackles and then, just a few yards into the run, was past the defense. The speedster outran the La Crosse secondary and gave Meade a 7-0 lead. The Buffs never trailed.
"Every time one of their guys were carrying the ball, they always had two or three linemen in front of them and it was kind of tough to get a bead on them," Keeley said of Meade's run-heavy single wing. "They run their plays so well and they get guys out in front and it's hard to get a clear shot on the guy. Against this offense, you've got to have everybody in on every play. We didn't have everybody in, and we didn't fill."
La Crosse quarterback Jack Garcia had thrown just four interceptions all season, had zero turnovers in the playoffs and led all Kansas sophomore signal callers in quarterback rating before Friday. However, Garcia didn't complete a pass in the first half and finished 5-of-14 for 55 yards with no touchdowns against two interceptions.
"A whole lot of things went bad for us," Webster said.
Meade's 6-foot-9, 230-pound senior defensive end Randy Friesen wreaked havoc with his height with two batted passes, including one on a fake punt from Keeley, and a tackle for loss.
"They put four deep on basically every time we threw," Keeley said. "There was really no openings. Credit to them."
La Crosse closed the game to 7-6 on a two-yard run from senior Levi Morss with 6 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first half. Morss, who entered the night with 1,531 rushing yards, finished with 15 carries for 117 yards. He collected just 28 yards in the second half as Meade ran a five-man front that bottled up La Crosse's running game.
In the second quarter, Hardaway scored on a 1-yard run and Little broke through for a 37-yard score and a 20-6 lead with 3:11 left in the first half. La Crosse closed the deficit to 20-12 at intermission on a 50-yard run by Keeley. He finished with 12 carries for 108 yards.
In the second half, La Crosse had a chance to tie, but Garcia threw an interception in the end zone on the quarter's first drive. The Leopards ran a fade route to the left side of the end zone and senior defensive back Mark Finster picked the ball off. Meade turned the turnover into a score on a 5-yard run from Hardaway and a 27-12 lead.
"He threw off his back foot a couple times," Webster said. "I don't know. He just didn't quite have it and we didn't do a good job of getting him time. I thought our play-action would be a little bit more effective."
The Buffs bumped the lead to 34-12 on another interception off a tipped ball at the Leopard 13-yard line.
"I was just so excited," Hardaway said. "I just wanted to get that win after they ruined our season last year, after I wanted back-to-back state championships. This year, I knew I wasn't going to let that happen."