Before leaving the field at Hummer Sports Park for the final time this year, Carlos Kelly took out his cellphone.
As bitter as Friday night’s lopsided season-ending defeat was, the first-year Topeka High head coach wanted to remember this moment — and perhaps more importantly, Kelly wanted the same for his returning Trojans.
"I took a picture of that scoreboard so I can post it, just put it there (in the locker room)," Kelly said. "It’s got to be burned in their memory."
Dodge City 39, Topeka High 0.
Two-way standout Matt Friess Jr. was a one-man revelation for the visiting Red Demons, snagging three interceptions on defense and hauling in four catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns on offense. Chance Kerr capped four drives with rushing touchdowns, part of a 15-carry, 85-yard showing for the sophomore running back.
The Trojans (2-4), meanwhile, simply couldn’t get into a rhythm against the Red Demons (4-5). The Topeka High offense, which averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, didn’t complete a single pass attempt until early in the fourth quarter, and by that point, Dodge City already had all six of its touchdowns in the bag.
Topeka High’s 12 total offensive possessions resulted in three punts, three interceptions, one fumble, two failed fourth-down tries, two turnovers on downs following botched snaps on punt attempts and one clock expiration at the end of the first half.
"It wasn’t like we had a big plethora in our toolbox. We’re pretty basic. We just try to win the one-on-one battles if we can," Kelly said. "It just didn’t happen that way."
With the win, Dodge City advanced to a Class 6A regional next Friday at undefeated and top-seeded Lawrence, which routed Wichita North in its playoff opener.
"We respected Topeka High. I mean, they had some good players. I just thought we played extremely well defensively," said Dodge City head coach Dave Foster. "We squandered some opportunities in the first half, especially right at the end, but for us to come out and get our second straight shutout in a dominant victory, I’m extremely proud of our kids."
Topeka High deployed three different quarterbacks against Dodge City, and remarkably, Friess Jr. intercepted each of them. Friess Jr.’s 22-yard catch-and-run touchdown gave the Red Demons the game’s first touchdown, and his 11-yard scoring reception — the 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior stretched across the goal line for the play’s final yard — finished off an explosive 19-point third-quarter for the visitors.
"We’ve watched several films on him, oh my goodness. He kind of can do it all," Kelly said of Friess Jr. "A good, solid football player. Plays on both sides, offense and defense. Just knows the game and knows where to be, and you could see: He was just wherever the eyes took him. ...
"He’s a really good player. I could see that guy playing easily at the next level on Saturday afternoons."
Reflecting on the Trojans’ season, Kelly expressed his gratitude for the team’s departing senior class. And while he acknowledged the obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly from a strength and conditioning standpoint, Kelly didn’t absolve his players — nor any of the team’s coaches, for that matter — from sharing blame for how everything unfolded.
"We got kind of lazy, I feel. There’s not a lot of effort to come on time and be there on time and be ready to get at it and get down and dirty," Kelly said. "Football is pretty much every inch, every foot. We have to work at it. We can’t just be good at it. It’s one of the sports you just can’t. And it’s the ultimate team sport. Eleven guys, 22 guys or however (many), it takes all of us, even the coaching staff."
With that in mind, Kelly indicated he is eager to "hit it hard" this offseason.
"I told the guys, the message was, after Thanksgiving be ready to go. You’re not going to like me at Thanksgiving," Kelly said. "... Don’t leave, but we’re going to work your butt off. So get that turkey, get that pie, and kiss it goodbye. It’s going to be all over."
DODGE CITY 39, TOPEKA HIGH 0
Dodge City (4-5);7;7;19;6;—;39
Topeka High (2-4);0;0;0;0;—;0
Dodge City — Friess Jr. 22 pass from Knedler (Estevane kick)
Dodge City — Kerr 11 run (Estevane kick)
Dodge City — Kerr 3 run (Estevane kick)
Dodge City — Kerr 9 run (kick failed)
Dodge City — Friess Jr. 11 pass from Knedler (pass failed)
Dodge City — Kerr 10 run (kick failed)
RUSHING — Dodge City: Knedler 16-61, Kerr 15-81, Vilaysing 5-24, Friess 1-4, T. Smith 4-6, Vontress 3-0. Topeka High: Carr 8-8, Williams 8-7, Alejos 11-45, Canady 1-(minus) 5, Team 2-(minus) 34.
PASSING — Dodge City: Knedler 8-11-0, 158 yards, T. Smith 1-3-0, 12 yards. Topeka High: Canady 2-7-1, 58 yards, Daniels 2-3-1, 8 yards, Alejos 0-2-1, 0 yards.
RECEIVING — Dodge City: Friess Jr. 4-97, Taylor 3-36, Kerr 1-29, Vilaysing 1-8. Topeka High: Phillips 1-51, Alejos 2-8, Kincade 1-7.
PUNTING — Dodge City: #43 (unlisted) 2-23.5. Topeka High: Alejos 3-26.