Saturday, 20 April 2019
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Road to Repeat - Sabetha Champions Again with Overtime Win
By Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports

Sabetha 43, Pratt 42 in Overtime

The road to repeat came to fruition on Saturday in Hutchinson as Sabetha defended their 3A State football Championship by completing an undefeated 2018 season with a thrilling 43-42 overtime victory against Pratt. 

The Bluejays staked an early 18-0 lead, but had to come from behind three times to tie the score in the fourth quarter before deciding to end the game on a two-point-conversion in overtime.  Trailing 42-41 and having little answer for Greenback quarterback Travis Theis, Sabetha Coach Garrett Michael went for the win and watched quarterback Gabe Garber on a run-pass-option (RPO) play dive for the corner of the endzone and touch the pigskin just inside the pylon for the Jays 20th straight victory and fourth football championship in school history.  

The pylon went home with Coach Michael, the football still hasn’t left the grasp of Garber and the championship trophy came back to title town in Sabetha!

It was all Sabetha early in the contest as they took the opening kickoff and march 58 yards on 10 plays and scored on Joe Gruber’s nine-yard touchdown.  Two drives later, Sabetha went 70 yards on 10 plays and Garber scored from two yards out to make it 18-0.  Pratt meanwhile opened the game with a pair of punts, and a second drive that resulted in Elliott Strahm stripping the football and Ryan Stapleton scooping it up and running 69 yards for a defensive touchdown.  The Jays did miss two PAT’s and a two-point-conversion but led 18-0 with 5:47 left in the first half. 

Pratt converted a third and long with a 52-yard pass from Theis to Blankenship and four plays later kept the drive alive with a fourth down play before Theis scored to pull the score within 18-7 at the break.  The Greenbacks would then score on their next four offensive possessions including a couple big plays in the third quarter on a 54-yard pass to Blankenship and a Theis dazzling 62-yard run to give Pratt their first lead at 21-18 midway through the third period.  Sabetha got a field  goal from Braedon Cox to tie the game at the end of the quarter and it was game-on till the finish. 

Theis made a play on fourth down and eight and then scored from nine-yard out to put Pratt ahead 28-18 at the 8:35 mark, but Sabetha answered quickly with a remarkable 48 yard touchdown run by Gruber.  Pratt made another big play on third and goal at the nine as Theis dove into the endzone with 1:12 remaining to make it 35-28.  Yet, Sabetha answered the call again after Gruber recovered a squib kick at the 49-yard line and then Pratt had a defensive pass interference penalty that negated an interception and the Jays on fourth down and one got a 17-yard run from Garber who on the next play found Stapleton for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 35-35 with :31 remaining. 

Five plays later the game went to overtime and Sabetha won the toss, which put Pratt on offense first.  The Greenbacks nearly fumbled as Theis tried the stretch the football over the back of his head towards the goal line on the second play, but was ruled down and then snuck in before Daniel Sanchez connected on his sixth straight extra point to make it 42-35.  The Bluejays had to overcome a penalty, but Garber found Stapleton on a six-yard pass on fourth down before barely sneaking the football to the pylon on the conversion for the win. 

Pratt, who ended their season 12-1, outgained Sabetha 424 yards to 330, largely because of much better starting field position for the Jays in the second half.  Theis finished with 245 yards on 35 carries and was 5-12 passing for another 143 accounting for all six Greenback touchdowns.  Theis ended his illustrious career with 6,739 rushing yards and was the only Pratt player with more than 20 yards rushing in the title game, while Blankenship had 126 yards receiving on three catches.

Sabetha ran for 270 yards with Gruber getting 156 of 24 totes and Garber adding 95 yards on 19 carries.  Stapleton had the defensive score and also two of his three receptions that went for touchdowns to force overtime and then the final score to set up the victory. Gruber led the team with 10 tackles while Cauy Rokey added nine. 

Sabetha is now 26-1 the last two seasons with a pair of 3A State Championships and a 20 game win streak heading into 2019.  The Bluejays graduate 15 super seniors, many of whom have been starters for multiple years on the varsity level.  The brotherhood has left a legacy that will no doubt be remembered forever.             

©2019 MSC Sports
Hiawatha, KS 66434
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