By BRETT MARSHALL
CONWAY SPRINGS — If there's one thing that the 2013 Scott City football team has learned from its predecessors of the past several years, it is to play the game with toughness, passion and focusing on each position's job.
Trust your teammate to do his job, do yours, and good things can happen.
Oh, and also play physical.
Saturday, at Shinn Field, the Beavers hammered that theme home en route to a dominating 20-7 victory over the previously unbeaten Conway Springs Cardinals in a Class 3A quarterfinal battle between two of the classification's elite programs.
The Beavers, who claimed the state title a year ago with a dramatic 28-21 win over Silver Lake, will now face a familiar foe in Beloit (12-0), a team Scott City knocked off in the semis a year ago, 42-26. This year's semifinal has been set to kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday at Scott City's O.L. Darner Field. Beloit advanced on Friday night with a 66-41 victory over Sedgwick.
Twice previously in the last seven years, the Beavers had traveled to Conway Springs for a quarterfinal matchup and twice they had left with tough losses. But not this time.
"We just knew that we wanted to play physical, physical, physical and if we did that we'd win the battle of the teams," said junior quarterback/safety Trey O'Neil.
O'Neil, who took the starting QB duties from his graduated older brother, Brett, was solid both in passing and directing a running game that provided balance to the Beavers' attack.
He completed 8-of-15 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another, as Scott City improved its season record to 11-1.
"We just tried to attack the edges and ran some sweeps that were effective," O'Neil said. "The credit for this win goes to our line. They opened up the holes for the backs to run through, did a great job of pass protecting and I thought it provided us a chance to have a great performance as a team."
Facing a stiff, 20 mph wind in the first quarter, the Beavers scored on their second possession by driving 99 yards in 10 plays, taking just over four minutes to score on O'Neil's 2-yard dive. The big play of the drive came on sophomore Wyatt Kropp's 56-yard run that brought the Beavers out of a deep hole when the drive started on their own 1-yard line. O'Neil also ran for 15 yards and completed two passes for 23 yards on the drive that gave the Beavers an early 7-0 lead.
"I've gotta give credit to the line," said Kropp. "They did a great job of creating space for us. We made some changes that they likely hadn't seen before. One of the big keys for us was balance with the run and pass. It's hard to defend both."
More importantly, however, that early score forced Conway Springs, a single-wing, run-oriented team, to play catchup from that point.
And while the Cardinals did tie the game briefly late in the second quarter when they had the one long, time-consuming drive of the game, that share of the lead was short-lived.
The Cardinals had set up shop on their own 39 at the 8:30 mark of the second period and drove it the distance, taking 15 plays and removing 7 minutes, 14 seconds off the clock. When Luke Fisher pile-drived over from 1-yard away, and Bryce Davis added the PAT kick, it was tied at 7 with 1:16 left before halftime.
Just when the momentum seemed to be on the side of the Cardinals, the Beavers yanked it away.
Not content to just run out the clock, the Beavers went to the air as O'Neil hooked up with Warren Kropp on a 57-yard sideline pattern. Two plays and one penalty later, O'Neil found Sloan Baker at the goal line, and the 6-1 Baker leaped high in the air to snag the ball and fell into the end zone. There was just 31 seconds on the clock, and Tre Stewart added his second PAT kick to give the Beavers a 14-7 lead at the break.
"We had to take advantage of the wind when we had it, because into the wind, it was just affecting certain passes too much," said Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil.
The teams battled to a scoreless standoff in the third quarter when the Beavers had the wind, but in the fourth, Scott City's defense was dominant, holding on fourth down twice and intercepting a double-reverse pass by Josh Dugan that was picked off by Trey O'Neil.
"I really felt like the key was our line getting to where they needed to be and playing physical," said Coach O'Neil. "The coaches and the players did a super job with the prep for the single wing, and felt like we were able to stuff the inside and then prevent them from getting to the corners."
O'Neil's interception and return put the ball at the Cardinals' 34-yard line with just over seven minutes to play, and the Beavers moved the remaining distance in five plays, culminating with O'Neil connecting with Chris Pounds on a 20-yard TD strike where the 5-foot-11 Pounds had a 6-inch height advantage on the Cards' Alec Brozovich to make the catch. Stewart's PAT kick was wide left with 5 minutes to go.
Conway's last attempt at rallying also was snuffed out by the Beavers' defense as the Cards' 4-play drive was stuffed on a 4th-and-3 situation at the Scott City 35 with 2:52 remaining. The Beavers picked up one first down on two runs by Wyatt Kropp and then ran out the clock.
Conway's legendary single-wing running game was limited to 193 yards on 52 attempts (3.7 yards) after entering the game averaging just under 370 yards and 8 yards per carry in its 11 wins.
For this group of Beavers, the victory was another step of proving that there is still Beaver football after the 2012 championship team.
"We've been hearing for a couple of weeks that we might not go far in the playoffs," said the younger Kropp. "But we come to play and this just feels so good. I think we're just as excited to be playing this late in the season, and each game gets more exciting."
The younger O'Neil also echoed Kropp's sentiment.
"This team has a lot of heart," the Beavers' QB said. "It's one and done at this stage and we've shown that we know how to win. It's nice to come here and have a victory so we can go home and play another game there."
Scott City 7 7 0 6 — 20
Conway Springs 0 7 0 0 — 7
SC--Trey O'Neil 2 run (Tre Stewart kick)
CS--Luke Fisher 1 run (Bryce Davis kick)
SC--Sloan Baker 27 pass from Trey O'Neil (Stewart kick)
SC--Chris Pounds 20 pass from O'Neil (kick failed)
First downs 13 12
Rushes-yards 30-184 52-193
Passing yards 152 7
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 8-16-0 1-6-1
Penalties-yards 5-30 4-35
Fumbles-lost 2-2 0-0
Punts-avg. 3-36.0 2-36.5
Possession time 20:19 27:41
RUSHING--Scott City: Strine 2-5, Baker 4-19, O'Neil 4-20, Yager 4-10, Wyatt Kropp 15-131, Team 1-(-1). Conway Springs: Stanley 3-25, Finstad 6-0, Wood 24-82, Fisher 15-73, Brozovich 3-3, Gillespie 1-0.
PASSING--Scott City: O'Neil 8-15-0--152, Meyer 0-1-0--0. Conway Springs: Finstad 1-5-0--7, Dugan 0-1-1--0.
RECEIVING--Scott City: Baker 1-27, Wyatt Kropp 1-(-1), Strine 1-8, Warren Kropp 3-90, Yager 1-8, Pounds 1-20. Conway Springs: Gillespie 1-7.