HAYS — The St. Mary’s-Colgan High School football team’s season ended on an unfortunate note, losing 43-7 against Smith Center on Saturday in the 2-1A State championship.

A big opening kickoff return set the tone, as right from the start, things weren’t going well for the Panthers.

By halftime, Smith Center had a 29-0 lead.

Things continued to get worse for the Panthers, as they went on to lose the final game of the season.

“That first half, really all night, we were kind of playing with our backs against the wall offensively and defensively,” SMC head coach Shawn Seematter said. “We couldn’t ever flip the field.”

Smith Center used a 45-yard kickoff return to start the game, then punched in the game’s first score and rolled to the Redmen’s first state championship since 2008, moving to 4-0 against Colgan in state title games.

Smith Center senior Jesse Staples scored the first of his three touchdowns to start the scoring. His second — from 24 yards — made it 15-0, and the rout was on.

“They’re a good team and they did what they wanted to do, and what they needed to do. Hats off to them,” Seematter said.

It was the final 2-1A title game as the Kansas State High School Activities Association realigns its classifications beginning next fall.

Smith Center won its ninth title in school history, while Colgan (10-3) finished second for the eighth time, falling a win shy of its eighth state championship.

“When we had that big kick return, we set the tone right there,” said Staples, who rushed for a game-high 131 yards on 17 carries. “When we set the tone, it’s over.”

Smith Center (12-1) led 29 at halftime and 36-0 after Staples’ 5-yard run in the third quarter.

Pitt-Colgan’s most successful drive of the night resulted in a 17-yard pass from Bryce Hutchins to Jeremiah Buche. It made it 36-7 with 3:14 left in the third, and Colgan didn’t get much more from that point.

“They didn’t have many weaknesses,” Seematter said. “We were kind of playing on our heels all night. We just couldn’t open anything up.”

Colgan finished with five rushing yards and 80 through the air.