SALINA – Phillipsburg’s 12-member senior class closed out an impressive four-year run with one last outstanding performance, capping a perfect 13-0 season with a 27-0 shutout victory over Riley County in Saturday’s Class 2A championship game at Salina Stadium.
The Panther seniors went 47-4 in their high school careers, with Saturday’s title following up a 2A-1A championship in 2015.
“Not too bad,’’ Phillipsburg coach JB Covington said with a laugh. “The nice thing about it is they’re a great bunch of kids and kids that want to do things right.
Phillipsburg senior quarterback Trey Sides, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns, said Saturday’s championship was a perfect way to go out for a group that’s played together since elementary school.
“My class has been amazing,’’ Sides said. “We’ve grown up playing since fourth grade. We just continued to grow together as a class and we all stuck with football and I’m just glad that we got (the title) this year.’’
Phillipsburg led 14-0 at the half on the strength of Sides’ two touchdown passes.
The Panthers got on the board at the 6:55 mark of the opening quarter, with a Trey Sides interception and 46-yard return setting up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Trey Sides to sophomore brother Ty Sides (Jonathan Hunnacutt kick).
Phillipsburg lost a fumble on its first possession of the game at the Riley County 46, but Trey Sides’ interception stopped Riley County’s scoring threat after the Falcons reached the Phillipsburg 28.
“The last two games we’ve been behind early and we made that turnover, but we knew we could make up for it the next possession,’’ Trey Sides said. “We felt confident we could score every drive.
“That didn’t happen this game, but obviously we had that confidence so it really helped the guys to continue to believe and fight and I’m just glad that we’re state champions.’’
The Panthers made it 14-0 with 4:02 left in the half, with Trey Sides connecting with Nathan Moon for a 26-yard TD (Hunnacutt kick).
Phillipsburg forced three first-half Riley County turnovers, including a pair of interceptions and the 10-3 Falcons turned the ball over five times on the day (three interceptions).
Riley County made a bid to get back in the game on the second-half kickoff, with Falcon senior Mikey Waggoner returning the ball 59 yards to the Panther 35 before Phillipsburg star senior kicker Hunnacut made a touchdown-saving tackle.
The Falcons picked up a first down at the 9-yard line, but the Panthers pushed Riley County back to the 14 and the Falcons turned the ball over on downs with a fourth-down incompletion.
“We couldn’t get any rhythm going offensively,’’ said Riley County coach Steve Wagner, whose team finished with 144 total yards. “We’d run the ball and then we’d get thrown for a 3 or 4-yard loss. They’re a good team. There’s a reason why they went undefeated this year.
“We’d have plays here and there, but just couldn’t get enough going continuously.’’
Riley County played well defensively much of the game, but Phillipsburg made it a three-possession game on a 45-yard Hunnacutt field goal with 2:27 left in the third quarter.
"I'd rather get it in the end zone,'' Hunnacutt said. "But if I have to kick a field goal I'll go out there and I'll do it.''
Hunnacutt, the most prolific kicker in Kansas history, tacked on a 41-yard field goal with 9:20 left to put the Panthers in front 20-0 and senior Tanner Ragsdale scored Phillipsburg’s final TD from 2 yards out after a Riley County fumble.
“We didn’t get touchdowns like we like – we ended up with a couple of field goals –but part of that was due to what Riley County was doing,’’ Covington said. “They were really loading the box up on us and at the same time we were having a little trouble getting to the edge.
“Hats off to Riley County. I thought they played very hard and played a great ballgame and our guys just found a way to win one.’’
Ty Sides had a big receiving day for the Panthers, finishing with six grabs for 103 yards and the early touchdown.
Waggoner paced Riley County’s offense with 51 rushing yards on 11 attempts, while the Panthers harassed Falcon quarterback Garrett Harmison into a 9 of 26 passing day.