Usually, when someone completes the percentage of passes Da’Vonshai Harden did Friday, it’s because he’s throwing dips and dunks. But when the Topeka High quarterback went 6-for-7 for 228 yards — in the first half alone — five of his completions were for more than 25 yards.
Harden finished with 287 passing yards, four touchdowns and just four incompletions before sitting out the fourth quarter of a 48-14 Class 6A playoff-opening win against Garden City. Even when the Trojans’ offense was slowed, which was rare, it was by penalties that did nothing but add 5 or 10 yards to the length of the ensuing touchdowns.
At one point in the second quarter, Harden unloaded yet another long ball, only to see it slip through the receiver’s hands. Adding to Garden City’s apparent favor was a 10-yard holding call. But one play after missing what could have been a 60-yard touchdown, Harden did one better, going back to Kaden Smith, the same receiver in the same spot of the field, for a 70-yard score.
It was that kind of night for the Buffaloes, who ended their season at 2-7.
Ky Thomas scored a 63-yard touchdown run on the Trojans’ first offensive play. After High (8-1) opened the game with eight straight runs, Geivonnii Williams caught a 27-yard pass. The first of the junior receiver’s six grabs set up a 3-yard Thomas touchdown run that made it 14-0.
“Ky did what Ky does,” High coach Walt Alexander said of the running back’s 183 yards on 21 carries. “We ran the ball well, and the defense played really well. I was really pleased with them.”
Garden City’s Joshua Janas answered Smith’s 70-yard, second-quarter touchdown with a 2-yard plunge, but it was the Buffaloes’ only score until the fourth quarter, when several Topeka High starters sat out after securing a regional matchup against Lawrence next Friday at Hummer.
Harden’s next three touchdowns went for 35, 60 and 29 yards, all to Williams, who finished with 175 receiving yards, plus an interception on defense.
“G just has a knack for getting open and a tremendous knack for going and getting the football,” Alexander said. “He’s one of the best I’ve seen at it on both sides. He got another interception tonight. He’s just got the God-given ability to go get that football.”
And Harden, a KU commit, has the ability to give it. For all their shortcomings, the Buffaloes put occasional pressure on the High quarterback, but his longest completions often came after eluding tacklers in the backfield.
“He created some space tonight,” Alexander said, “because their offensive and defensive lines are really good. We knew that they’d be tough.”
Thomas matched Williams’ three-touchdown total to make it 48-6 in the third quarter. Quarterback Zane Burns nearly doubled his rushing total on one play, a 35-yard touchdown run with 4:26 left, to add to Garden City’s scoring late.
The challenge gets much tougher for the third-seeded Trojans next week when they host No. 6 Lawrence (8-1), a 38-21 winner Friday over Washburn Rural.
“At this time of year, we just take the wins and keep playing,” Alexander said. “We try to survive until the next week. We know we have a good Lawrence team coming in, so we’ve just got to keep playing well, prepare our butts off and see what happens.”
TOPEKA HIGH 48, GARDEN CITY 14
TH — Thomas 63 run (Holloman kick)
TH — Thomas 3 run (Holloman kick)
TH — Smith 70 pass from Harden (Holloman kick)
GC — Janas 2 run (kick failed)
TH — Williams 35 pass from Harden (Holloman kick)
TH — Williams 60 pass from Harden (kick failed)
TH — Williams 29 pass from Harden (Holloman kick)
TH — Thomas 1 run (Holloman kick)
GC — Burns 35 run (Ramsey from Guevera)
RUSHING — Garden City: Janas 20-90, Burns 13-73, Arteaga 1-minus 3, Dominguez 5-39. Topeka High: Thomas 21-183, Harden 6-21, Alejos 1-5, Sanders 1-0, Daniels 1-minus 13, Scaife 3-minus 15, Rangel 1-3.
PASSING — Garden City: Burns 6-12-1, 52 yards; Guevera 1-1-0, 2. Topeka High: Harden 10-14-0, 287.
RECEIVING — Garden City: Biera 2-7, Dominguez 1-4, Durst 2-37, Arteaga 1-4, Ramsey 1-2. Topeka High: Williams 6-175, Smith 1-70, Deeter 1-26, Thomas 2-16.