The St. Mary’s Colgan Panthers simply dominated time of possession in the second half of their Class 3A, District 8 clash Thursday night with the Southeast Lancers.
With its opening drive after halftime, Colgan marched 58 yards in 9 plays and devoured 5 minutes, 11 seconds off the clock. Colgan forced a Southeast three-and-out and on its next offensive possession, Colgan delivered another 5:11 scoring drive.
Both drives were culminated in Conner Dayton touchdown runs en route to a 40-24 Colgan victory to claim a district title and continue its season into the 3A playoffs. The Panthers make their 14th consecutive playoff appearance.
Colgan led 26-24 at halftime, as Southeast worked its way back into the game after trailing 14-0 after one quarter. In that shootout of a second quarter, both teams combined for six TDs — Southeast four, Colgan two — and 36 points with no successful extra points or conversion plays.
“It was a good win for our kids and I thought we played just a real fine Southeast team,” Colgan head coach Chuck Smith said. “Boy, a lot of points by both teams. I really thought everybody played well. I heard we held them to no first downs in the second half (one, in the last seconds of the game) and boy, after the first half they had, I didn’t think that could happen. I was real proud of our defense.”
Southeast finished with 20 second-half yards, 15 on the final possession. The Lancers only ran six offensive plays in the third quarter and left their defense on the field for 10:22 of the third and most of the fourth.
“I never did relax,” Smith said. “We were up 16 with a minute to go and I was still worried about them (Southeast) because they’re very explosive. Again, I thought our defense really played well the second half and shut them down.”
Meanwhile, for the game, Colgan delivered its most balanced offensive performance of the season — 521 total yards, 260 rush, 261 pass. The Panthers generated 20 first downs, scored four rushing and two passing TDs and averaged 4.8 yards per rush and 26.1 yards per completion.
“I thought Aaron Twarog had a big ballgame for us,” Smith said. “Dyson (Dechant) did a good job for us hitting his second and third receivers. Conner Dayton had a good ballgame and I thought it was just a good team win. All the kids played well and it’s real exciting to have won this one.”
Dayton led all ball carriers with 226 yards and two TDs on 38 carries — he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing and 10 TDs on the season. Dayton carried the ball 27 times in the second half for 136 yards.
Dechant finished the night 10 of 19 for 261 yards, two TDs and no interceptions, arguably his best-played game of the season. Nine of the 10 passes completed went for either a first down or a touchdown.
Page 2 of 2 - Drew Casey caught one pass in the game from Dechant, a 6 or 7-yard out route for a first down and Casey turned it into a 68-yard touchdown, stiff-arming one defender, dodging Avi Sharma and working his way through last-man-of-defense Daniel Peak for the first points of the game.
Christian Cedeno took his first carry of the game for a 12-yard TD and 14-0 Colgan lead. Drew Dawson scored a pair of TDs in the second quarter — a 55-yard reception on a screen pass turned into a big play and a 3-yard run.
Southeast scored its first points with its best offensive possession of the night, a drive which started in the first and ended in the second quarter on a Colton Charlton 1-yard run with 11:47 before halftime. This possession encompassed 72 yards and 14 plays over 5:43.
The Lancers would score on touchdown passes from senior quarterback Josh Thompson to sophomore receiver Ryan Rakestraw and senior receiver Peak — 16 yards to Rakestraw and 35 yards to Peak. Peak closed out the first-half scoring with a sensational 80-yard kickoff return for touchdown — on the season, Peak scored touchdowns via offense (rushing, receiving), defense and special teams.
With the combination of Colgan winning and Galena winning Thursday night, Colgan wins a district title and Galena finishes runner-up. Colgan (6-3) will host District 7 runner-up Neodesha and Galena will travel to District 7 champion Caney Valley on Tuesday night.
“It’s kind of neat to play a home game,” Smith said. “We’re excited about that and I’m real excited for the kids. The kids have had a great attitude all year long and I really appreciate working with them. Boy, I’m real happy for them.”
Southeast finishes its season 6-3, a five-win improvement from last season.