Julesburg, Colo. — Chris Michel stood emotionless in the wild celebration. The Sedgwick County coach looked up at a bruised colored sky and then basked in the rain as his players celebrated the aftermath of a heroic 58-14 victory over Hoehne in the Class A, Eight-Man State Championship game last Saturday, Nov. 24 at Schmitt Field.
The spunky Farmers (11-2) were as relentless as the cold rain.
Hoehne stacked the line of scrimmage to slow down the feared rushing duel of last year’s 2017 State MVP player Layne Green, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 230-pound oak tree, and speedy junior Beau Parker. Led by a monster game by Federico Orozco and Shane Montoya (four solo tackles in the first half), the gang-tackling Farmers held Green and Parker at bay. Green finished with under 100 yards on the ground.
So the Cougars (11-1) were forced into a rare air assault to claim a historic fourth consecutive state championship title. Quarterback Ethan Walter — voted this year’s 2018 State’s MVP Player — connected with sophomore receiver Terrance Heath on a pair of fourth-down bombs that sank Hoehne’s dream of a state championship at the end of an epic road trip.
But the MVP Award could have easily gone to Heath. The 6-foot tight end finished with four touchdowns on the day to keep the Farmers nipping at the Cougar’s heels for three quarters. “My quarterback is amazing. He had a lot of faith in me and threw some perfect balls. So was coach. When he needed critical yards he got the ball in my hands. It was the first time I was asked to do something like this.” Heath had only one touchdown reception for the whole season.
The Farmers stacked the line and dared Sedgwick County to pass.
And they looked like TWA. “Hoehne knew we had a good running game and they came to stop it,” Walter said. “We wanted to pound the ball and then go over the top. We haven’t done anything as drastic all season.”
The first bomb came with 4:30 remaining in the first quarter.
Facing a fourth-and-nine at the Farmer 34, Heath shook off a defender near the chalk on the right sideline and dashed untouched for the score. Walter’s conversion run had Sedgwick in front 8-0.
The Farmers had brought their own rushing monster into the championship fray. Senior Trysten Moltrer (356-yards on 35 carries and four touchdowns) and senior Kyle Rowe (344-yards on 44 carries and seven touchdowns) led the state in rushing in the playoffs, and they answered with their own uppercut on their first possession. On Hoehne’s Kyle broke free on the left sideline and then cut right across the field for a 39-yard scoring run with 3:53 remaining in the first quarter. Quarterback Weston Hill’s conversion run was stopped inches short for an 8-6 deficit as the horn sounded.
“Our defense made them scramble and drive,” confessed Farmer coach Gabe Dasko, “but then we had some breakdowns and gave them the momentum. You can’t have breakdowns against a team like Sedgwick.”
The Cougars went airborne again.
Facing another fourth and five at the Hoehne 18 yard line, Walter rolled out on an option and tossed a perfect spiral to Heath, who sprinted into the end zone with 11:09 left in the second quarter. Trysten Moltrer belly-tackled Beau Parker for a loss on the conversion attempt as the Cougars surged ahead 14-6. With Hoehne on their heels, the Cougars added a 14-yard run by Beau Parker and a conversion pass from Walter to tight end Dalton Carlson for a 22-6 advantage before halftime.
“We have one back that is 230 pounds (Green) and one back who thinks he’s 230 pounds,” Michel said. “(Beau) Parker (152 pounds) runs the ball like he’s a big, powerful back. He punishes kids and he does a great job.”
Michel gambled all day long.
The Cougar coach converted five of six fourth down gambles and ordered a series of five gutsy squib kicks. Nothing seemed to hurt them, except on the opening drive of the third quarter when Hoehne recovered one of his squib kicks in excellent field position at the Farmer 45. Trysten Moltrer dashed 55 yards in a spectacular tackle-breaking run down the left sideline with just 11 seconds elapsed in the third period. Dalton Hudson was wide open on the conversion pass.
A large Hoehne crowd was revived with hope. Hoehne was back in contention at 22-14.
“We have good kids,” said Dasko. “We lost the first game of the year and never faltered in a 10-game winning streak to get here. They came back today to get within range on a couple of occasions. They never quit. That is all you can ask from your team.”
The Cougars finally wore down the stubborn Farmers.
It was the magical Heath once more. He took a 28-yard scoring reception down the right side for a 28-14 lead midway into the third quarter, and then added a 67-yard bomb to his resume when he smashed through three Farmer defenders to put Sedgwick out of reach at 36-14. Green added a two-yard plunge in the fourth quarter to finish the season with 29 touchdowns and 75 for his career.
The Cougar reserves added a pair of late game scores when freshman Brody Parker dashed 61-yards for a score and sophomore Angel Nunez returned a Farmer fumble on a kickoff return for the 58-14 final.
“I guess you can look at some of my gambles as reckless,” confessed Michel, “but I have great confidence in our offensive and defensive lines. Sometimes they make me look really good. But the squib kicks had some reasoning. We wanted to keep out of the hand of that Moltrer kid. And he still hurt us on a couple of occasions.”
Hoehne couldn’t convert on some good field position on Michel’s second half squib kicks. Sedgwick’s defensive resolve stopped the state’s leading rushing attack on five second half possessions.
Heath was the breakout star.
And Sedgwick County will be an early season favorite to claim an unprecedented five straight championship titles.
“We rely on the run,” Michel said, “but for a sophomore to come into a championship game and catch four touchdowns. That is some big play ability. He made the most of his opportunities.”
Hoehne returned to their first title game since winning it all in 2010. Sedgwick County has eliminated the Farmers for the last four years, but Michel has nothing but respect for the Farmer program.
“Gabe has a great program down in Hoehne,” he said. “They are so similar to us. They run the ball and make adjustments on defense. They have presented the most difficult games for us. And we’ll see them again for the opener next season. With Hoehne, nothing comes easy.”
Hoehne 6 0 8 0 – 14
Sedgwick County 8 14 6 22 – 58
“State championships are hard to win, even in jacks and marbles.” ~ George Dasko