After a 15-year hiatus, the Dodge City High School has advanced to the second round of the Class 6A state football playoffs.
While tailback Jace Banner rushed for a school-record 305 yards and rumbled for four touchdowns, the Red Demons’ up-and-coming defense overpowered Topeka High’s high-octane offense.
Dodge City cruised past the Trojans 35-14 Saturday ninght in an opening-round playoff game at Memorial Stadium.
"Banner runs exceptionally hard," Topeka High coach Walt Alexander said. “I don't think he's one of the fastest backs we've seen.
"We've played against some pretty good backs, but he's the strongest of any back I've seen. He's a very good running back."
Dodge City (8-2) advances to the second round of the playoffs on Friday night at 7 with a road trip to Derby (7-3). Topeka High ends its season at 6-4.
The win ended a drought that backdates to 1994, in which the Demons pounded Junction City 55-22.
"After the season, we can reflect on that," said Burke of finally clearing an obstacle in advancing to the second round. "We can't do that right now.”
Ironically, Dodge City advanced to the second round of the 1994 playoffs and took on none other than Derby, losing 19-0.
Fifteen years later, the Demons have come full circle.
Saturday night, Topeka High drove 79 yards on its opening possession. But running back Cody Harrison, who finished with 100 yards on the night, was stopped for no gain on third- and fourth-and-goal at the 1 and the Trojans came away empty.
Tyson Carpenter and Massn Pooler stopped Harrison cold on third down, and Pooler dropped him at the line of scrimmage on fourth down and the Demons took over on downs.
“I'm real impressed with our team. That first goal-line stand to start the game was good."
It seemed to be a tone-setter for the remainder of the night, although on its next possession, Topeka High drove 43 yards in six plays for a 7-0 lead.
Trojans quarterback Sam Johnson scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:19 left in the first quarter
Dodge City tied the game at 7 after Red Demons quarterback Ty Thomas hooked up with top receiver Zach Harvey on a fade route for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 9:13 left in the second quarter.
Banner's first big run set up the Demons' initial score. On second-and-6 at the DCHS 38, Banner gained 25 yards before he was forced out of bounds.
Topeka High's Tyrell Everett was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty after a late hit on Banner after the play, setting up Thomas' pass play to Harvey.
"He made a lot of extra yards, running tough and breaking tackles," Burke said of Banner. "It was an outstanding performance."
Page 2 of 2 - The Trojans had no answer for Banner, period.
"I think we were doing a great job on (Banner) early," Alexander said. "But then we had two key injuries on defense.
"I'm not making excuses. They executed well, but we had those two injuries and we're not real deep. It hurt us tremendously and we didn't handle adversity after those injuries."
Topeka High linebacker/running back Riley Williams and safety/wide receiver Tevyn Harmon suffered injuries and didn't return. Williams reportedly suffered an Achilles' injury.
Dodge City took a 14-7 halftime lead after Banner topped off a brief six-play, 47-yard drive by bursting into the clear for a 30-yard scoring run with 5:50 left in the second quarter.
Banner also had a game-best 52-yard gain.
Dodge, which hogged the ball for much of the second half , opened the third quarter with a 13-play, 62-yard scoring drive. It was capped by Banner's 1-yard plunge for a 21-7 lead at the 6:14 mark.
Banner gained 49 yards in 11 of those 13 plays on the drive.
But Harrison returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to cut the margin to 21-14 at the six-minute mark.
Dodge answered once again with Banner. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Banner scored on a 1-yard run, finishing off a 14-play, 65-yard march to finish off the Trojans. Josh Ginther then missed his first extra-point kick of the night, leaving the score at 27-14.
Banner's 9-yard TD run with 7:45 remaining closed the scoring. Tight end Laton Dowling, a Kansas State commitment, and defensive standout, caught the two-point conversion.