By Brennan Dial
Bishop Miege had trounced its way over the competition to earn the right to play for the first-ever state 4A-1 title. But there would be no stampeding through Topeka-Hayden in Saturday’s championship game, where the Stags emerged to take the 42-35 win and the school’s fifth state title.
Junior running back Dawson Downing credited Miege’s rigorous training with the team’s ability to find a way to win.
“The week of preparation before the game and the ability to fight through adversity during the game” were the keys to victory, Downing said.
The Stags knew they had a real game on their hands when Hayden struck first, taking a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. But Miege fought right back, rolling down the field in eight plays to tie the game on a four-yard touchdown run from junior running back Dawson Downing. Hayden saw no trouble in answering back after Miege scored. A personal foul after a 17 yard gain for Hayden put Miege’s defense against the wall. Hayden capitalized with a three yard touchdown run to take back their lead.
After a pair of defensive stops by both teams, Miege was tested once again by the Hayden defense, which forced the Stags into a fourth-and-one situation. Converting on that play set up a 21 yard passing touchdown from quarterback Ryan Willis.
With the game tied at 14, Miege received the ball on their own 46 yard line with no timeouts left in the half. Running a flawless two-minute drill, the Stags were able to take their first lead of the game on a two yard touchdown run from Downing.
But despite a 21-14 lead going into half, Miege knew Hayden wasn’t just going to roll over. The Wildcats tied the game on a 4 yard touchdown pass on their first drive after the break. Miege struck again quickly, with Willis rolling out as the pocket collapsed to reel off a pass to sophomore wide receiver Jafar Armstrong, who turned it into a 76 yard touchdown. The Stags had regained the lead and seemed to suck up all of Hayden’s momentum.
“It was a broken play actually,” Armstrong said about touchdown. “I had a comeback but the corner guarded it very well so I rolled out, and after Ryan threw the pass I knew I had to score.”
But Hayden responded with a big play of their own. A 15 yard pass turned into a quick 80 yard touchdown. The game was tied again.
As the third quarter drew to a close, Miege pieced together a quick drive, scoring in just 24 seconds on a deep pass to Armstrong and a five yard touchdown run from Downing.
Miege later missed a 42 yard field goal, handing the ball back to the Wildcats, who were in dire need of a big play. A quick three-and-out gave Miege a chance to take a 14 point lead, the largest for any team throughout the whole game.
A 17 yard touchdown pass gave Willis his third of the game and put a major setback on a Wildcat upset. With a Miege interception the game seemed to be over, while the Wildcats were still fighting a quick three and out for the Stags changed the any assumptions on an easy victory.
With three minutes left the Wildcats were able to score as the game would come down to an onside kick and with a Miege recovery the dream of a perfect season became reality for a group of high schoolers from Roeland Park, Kansas.