BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend’s 70-31 Class 5A football playoff victory over Topeka West produced 892 offensive yards.
But it was the Panthers’ defense that keyed the record-breaking victory with two scores and six takeaways.
Outside linebacker Max Jerke enjoyed a highlight-reel night with three interceptions. Panthers Bryce Lytle and Dalton Miller scored defensive touchdowns.
The 5-8, 145-pound Jerke said it was a welcome change of pace to challenge a passing team rather than seeing another run-oriented offense.
“The turnovers meant a lot to our defense and kept us going. That’s up there – it’s my best game,” Jerke said. “Most times I’ve reading the receivers and watching the quarterback’s eyes.”
Lytle delivered the game’s biggest play on defense when he stole the football from Topeka West receiver Caleb Schmelze and sprinted 74 yards for a touchdown for a 49-24 halftime lead.
Safety Dalton Miller returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown for a 63-24 lead. Brock Blessing also intercepted a pass.
The takeaways offset a 329-yard passing night and four touchdowns by Charger southpaw quarterback Zach Shima.
“We did a great job responding, playing well and getting some turnovers,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “We got more guys into pass coverage after the big plays that were happening.”
Tailback Cal Marshall rushed for a career high 211 yards and two touchdowns to spark a 312-yard rushing night.
The offensive line of center Kaden Schroeder, guards Trevor Fehr and Payton Doll and tackles Aaron Clark and Noah Presson dominated the line of scrimmage.
“It’s a testament to our offensive line,” Beck said. “That’s a pretty special thing for Cal. He’s got good vision and good north and south speed. We wore them out.”
Quarterback Jacob Murray scored three rushing touchdowns and completed two TD passes to Lytle for 16 and 47 yards.
The Panthers broke a school record with 70 points that snapped the previous mark of a 68-point outing against Lyons High School.
No. 1 ranked Great Bend (8-1) qualifies for a second-round showdown against Andover High and former Great Bend coach Tony Crough.
The first half featured 615 yards, 233 rushing by the Panthers and 228 yards passing by the Chargers.
Murray scored three rushing touchdowns and Marshall scored twice with 151 yards rushing.
Charger QB Shima was up to the challenge with 19 completions and 228 yards. WR Chris Ellis caught three first-half TD passes.
PANTHERS 70, CHARGERS 31
Topeka West 17 7 0 7 -- 31
Great Bend 14 35 21 0 -70
GB—Cal Marshall 77 run (Franco kick), 11:36
TW—Chris Ellis 19 pass from Zach Shima (Caleb Schmelze kick), 10:03
TW—Schmelze 39 FG, 4:09
GB—Murray 3 run (Franco kick), 3:29
TW—Ellis 33 pass from Shima (Schmelze kick), 0:35
GB—Lytle 47 pass from Murray (Franco kick), 11:53
GB—Marshall 14 run (Franco kick), 9:50
GB—Murray 2 run (Franco kick), 6:42
TW—Ellis 23 pass from Shima (Schmelze kick), 6:04
GB—Murray 5 run (Franco kick), 4;36
GB—Lytle 74 fumble return (Franco kick), 4:05
GB—Marshall 50 run (Franco kick), 6:21
GB—Dalton Miller 27 interception return (Franco kick), 6:09
GB—Lytle 16 pass from Murray (Franco kick), 1:48
TW—Brian Wright 13 pass from Shima (Schmelze kick), 0:28
RUSHING — TW: Brian Wright 7-42, Shima 14-25; GB: Cal Marshall 13-211, Murray 15-81, Gage Fritz 5-22; Panzer 2-4; team 2-(-6).
PASSING — TW: Shima 23-54-5, 259; GB—Murray 11-15-0, 184.
RECEIVING — TW: Ellis 4-85, Elliot Mehrens 4-53, Wright 3-29; Schmelze 10-114, Vincent Parker 4-48; GB: Lytle 6-133, Bieker 1-16; Koy Brack 1-12, Cory Burnham 2-14, Marshall 1-9.
FRIDAY’S CLASS 5A PLAYOFFS
Wichita Heights 55, Salina Central 0
Emporia 14, Liberal 7
Goddard 52, Salina South 0
Wichita Carroll 41, Wichita Kapaun Mount Carmel 8
Great Bend 70, Topeka West 31
Andover 35, Goddard Eisenhower 14
Valley Center 28, Newton 20
Maize 22, Arkansas City 20