GOWER, Mo. — East Buchanan’s offense ran in high gear for 48 minutes, moving the Bulldogs one step closer to their goal of a state championship with a 58-34 win over Bishop LeBlond on Friday night at East Buchanan High School.
The Bulldogs (11-0) put up 22 points in the first quarter, hardly slowing down as the Golden Eagles (5-6) attempted to match them score for score but could not keep up as the game wore on.
“We got a two-score lead and we kind of took a breath a little bit,” East Buchanan coach Kevin Bryan said. “Then we got a three-score lead and kind of just said ‘all right, we feel pretty comfortable now.’”
East Buchanan reached the end zone on its first drive when junior quarterback Colby Rapp hit junior wide receiver Nate Griffin for a 32-yard touchdown pass. Senior running back Ryan Kilgore tacked on the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 less than four minutes in.
That drive was the first of many in the first half that made it feel more like a track meet than a football game.
After a Bishop LeBlond punt and a Bulldogs turnover on downs, senior quarterback Jack Schanze evened the score with a 59-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Cort Patrick and a two-point conversion toss to junior wide receiver Trey Hartman.
Patrick hauled in 10 catches for 261 yards and four touchdowns in his final game in purple and gold.
“That young man plays with a tremendous amount of passion, I think in some instances more than a lot of kids,” LeBlond coach Tony Dudik said. “... He’s kind of a gift to the game. He is truly a joy to watch and has been for four years.”
A few plays later, Rapp found junior wide receiver Jason Daugherity from 36 yards out, then hit Griffin for the two-point conversion to make it 16-8 with less than five minutes left in the first quarter.
The Eagles answered with a drive that included a 37-yard pass from Schanze to Patrick and a 24-yard scamper by Schanze, and was finished off on a 2-yard scoring burst by senior running back Alex Pyatt.
A Schanze pass on the conversion attempt fell incomplete, leaving the score 16-14 in favor of the Bulldogs.
A week after rushing for more than 200 yards, Pyatt was held to 69 yards on 12 carries, making it more difficult for Schanze to throw the ball down the field as the game wore on.
East Buchanan widened its lead to 22-14 on the second-to-last play of the first quarter when senior wide receiver Elliot Fortney came around the end on a hand-off and ran 75 yards to the end zone.
LeBlond crawled back within two near the midway point of the second quarter on another long touchdown pass from Schanze to Patrick, this time from 46 yards to make it 22-20.
That was when the tide started to turn the Bulldogs’ way. They went on an 18-play drive that took just a little more than four minutes and included three third-down conversions and one successful fourth-down play.
Daugherity finished off the drive with 2:16 remaining in the half, running into the left corner of the end zone from 2 yards out.
The Eagles mounted a counter, but East Buchanan junior Zac Johnson spoiled it with an interception, making the score 30-20 at halftime.
“You’re sitting there in catch-up mode,” Dudik said. “I’m a competitor, these coaches are competitors; when you’ve got a two-score separation, I don’t want to say you panic, but you just get a little bit antsy.”
After hauling in five passes in the first half, Johnson made a big impact on both sides of the ball in the second half. He switched on to Patrick, holding the Eagles’ star to three catches — though one was a 56-yard touchdown — and caught five more passes, including two touchdowns.
“We had trouble with (Patrick) in the first half and I just asked coach if I could guard him because I may not be the best, but I like challenges and he’s definitely a challenge,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s efforts combined with 98 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries by Kilgore helped keep the ball out of LeBlond’s hands.
As did Rapp’s efficiency. The junior gunslinger completed 33 of 48 passes, totaling 345 yards despite the Eagles’ concerted effort to take away the deep ball. He had four passing touchdowns and only threw one interception on his final pass of the day. He also scampered in from one yard to make the score 52-34 with 8:50 to play.
“We took advantage and we executed when we needed to,” Rapp said. “That was pretty good for us on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side, they know what they need to do and they did exactly that. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Johnson finished with 124 yards on 11 catches and Griffin had 10 receptions for 110 yards.
For LeBlond, Schanze finished 17 of 35 for 333 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.