By Travis Mounts
You couldn’t ask for a worse start to a football game.
The Garden Plain Owls turned over the ball on the second play from scrimmage in their Class 2A football playoff game at the Hoisington Cardinals last Friday, a 28-14 loss for the Owls.
The Cardinals turned that opportunity into a quick touchdown and an 8-0 lead. After a quick punt by the Owls, the Cardinals broke off a 60-yard run deep into Garden Plain territory, and then pounded the ball on several runs to cover the last 20 yards for a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“We didn’t help ourselves at all,” said Garden Plain head coach Dan Adelhardt.
After the first quarter, Adelhardt was overheard telling the Owls, “Games are not won or lost in the first quarter.” That proved to be good advice as the Owls were able to steady themselves as the first half wore on.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Reed Adelhardt capped a drive early in the second quarter, as the Owls cut the Cardinals lead in half, 14-7.
After a defensive stop late in the half, the Owls were able to find the end zone again, this time thanks to a little trickery as a lateral to the right side set up a 29-yard halfback pass by Travis Scheer, who found Tranden Daerr open for a touchdown and a 14-14 tie at halftime.
Garden Plain’s passing game in the second quarter helped spread out the Hoisington defense. A big pass play turned the field on the Owls’ first scoring drive, setting up their first score. Catches by Scheer and Colby Haukap helped set up the tying touchdown.
But in the second half, Hoisington was able to reestablish the running game dominance it showed early in the game. The Owls’ offense was not able to get back on track after the break.
The Cardinals opened the half with a long drive, scoring on a 44-yard run for a 22-14 lead.
After the Owls were unable to convert on fourth down at midfield in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals put together another scoring drive in the fourth quarter with a touchdown with nine minutes to play. For the second year in a row, Hoisington beat a visiting Garden Plain team in the quarterfinal round of the Class 2A playoffs.
Hoisington’s ability to control the line of scrimmage and success in the running game made the difference. The Cardinals ran for 316 yards while gaining 375 total yards on offense, and attempted only five passes the entire night.
The Owls managed just 189 yards of offense, with most of it coming through the air. The passing game was actually fairly effective, as the Owls went 10-for-17 for 148 yards. But they weren’t able to balance that out on the ground, averaging just 1.6 yards per carry for a total of 41 rushing yards. The Owls gave up a fumble and an interception, but their defense also recovered a Hoisington fumble.
Daerr was the Owls’ primary passer on Friday, going 8-for-10 for 130 yards. Adelhardt ran for 21 yards, and Daerr added 19. Travis Scheer led all receivers with 97 yards and three catches, and Colby Haukap added 23 yards on a pair of receptions.
Garden Plain’s 9-2 record and district championship helped make for a memorable run for the new head coach.
“It was a really fun season,” Adelhardt said. The season began with zoom meetings – Adelhardt getting the job, meeting his players, the first parents meeting and first team meet all took place online.
Once summer came around, the rules were relaxed and Adelhardt saw his players nearly every day. It took some time, he said, but over the season everybody got on the same page, helping the Owls make another deep playoff run.