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Penka's tackle sparks Panthers past Crusaders
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Great Bend linebacker Blake Penka delivered a defensive gem on the game’s defining play.

Penka dropped Scott Valentas for a loss on 4th-and-1 with Great Bend leading Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 10-7.

“I read it, saw the open gap and filled it,” Penka said. “We knew No. 10 (Valentas) was their superstar. On big plays, they give him the football.”

Penka’s tackle ignited Great Bend’s 31-7 playoff victory over the Crusaders with a 21-0 second-half run in Friday's 5A football playoff game. Penka had 10 tackles.

“Blake Penka made an unbelievable play to switch the momentum,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “That is high school football at its finest when you feel that energy. The kids fed off the raw emotion.”

Receiver Alex Schremmer delivered the second-biggest play on a juggling 56-yard reception from Koy Brack after Penka’s tackle.

Panther tailback Gage Fritz rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns to gain over 1,000 yards. The Panthers gained 213 yards rushing and 138 yards passing. Fritz, Brack and Dalton Miller scored second-half touchdowns.

“We did a good job grinding the game out,” Beck said. “Our offensive line is a smart group and understand the game of football. They did a great job up front.”

The Panthers play at Maize High (9-1) in the 5A football quarterfinals.

“It’s a great team win to see everyone play their heart out,” Beck said. “That was everything you hope for as a coach.” 

Panthers Alex Olivas and Joey Soupiset intercepted second-half passes to shut out the Crusaders after halftime. The Crusaders gained 203 yards with three turnovers. Pablo Martinez had 10 tackles, two for loss. Miller had 11 tackles, Brock Blessing 10.

“That was fun. Our defense played amazing,” said Panther tackle Pablo Martinez. “I love playing defense because we get to tear offenses up. Our defense got fired up after Penka’s tackle.”

Great Bend rolled 65 yards in four plays for an opening touchdown. Fritz rambled 41 yards for the score.

Panther Alan Miramontes recovered a fumble and 

the Panthers led 10-0 when Dani Franco converted a 29-yard field goal.

The Crusaders finished a hard-earned 62-yard drive keyed by back-to-back penalties. Brenden Bhargava caught a 8-yard pass for a crucial first down off Soupiset’s deflection. Christian Werne scored on a 2-yard run.

Wichita Kapaun 0 7 0 0 — 7

Great Bend 10 0 7 14 — 31

GB—Gage Fritz 41 run (Dani Franco kick)—10:40

GB—Franco 29 FG—5:56

K—Christian Werne 2 run (J.D. Mash kick)—11:58

GB—Dalton Miller 6 run (Franco kick) —3:47

GB—Koy Brack 1 run (Franco kick) —8:05

GB—Fritz 2 run (Franco kick) —3:28


RUSHING—K—48-132; Valentas 19-87; Perkins 4-26; Kennedy 8-12; Shonka 3-5; Hacking 8-(-7); Werne 1-2; Schaefer 1-14; Schoenhofer 1-5; Giminto 1-(-2); Estivo 1-(-3); Jones 1-(-7); GB—36-213; Fritz 26-184; Miller 7-32; Brack 3-1; Alex Schremmer 1-2; team 3-(-6)

PASSING—K—Hacking 3-10-2, 36; Kennedy, 1-3-0 35; GB—Brack 11-15-1, 138

RECEIVING—K—Schmitz 2-51; Kennedy 1-12; Bhargava 1-8; GB—Alex Schremmer 7-109; Miller 2-13; Peyton Duvall 1-11; Calan Haberman 1-5