Dominant second half lifts Sterling past Smith Center
By NICK McQUEEN
SMITH CENTER -- To end the regular season, Sterling senior quarterback Riley Galyon carried the ball 36 times for 203 yards and threw for 171 yards in a 28-20 loss to Johnson-Stanton County.
The loss capped a brutal regular season schedule where Galyon guided the Black Bears through a 3-6 record that included two early losses by one point. He rushed 208 times during the season for 1,314 yards.
So, it was no secret what the Black Bears were going to do against Smith Center on Friday night as the Redmen returned to the Class 2-1A playoffs after two seasons in 3A. The only problem was, the Redmen had no way of stopping it in a 26-16 loss at Hubbard Stadium, snapping a five-game Smith Center winning streak.
The win by Sterling ended a string of seven straight playoff losses.
The Black Bears got it done with a dominant second half.
"We started tackling," Sterling coach Matt Hendricks said. "All of their big runs in the first half, we had someone there every time, and we just didn't make the tackle.
"We had guys flying to the ball on defense, and we were being more aggressive (after the break)," he added.
Save two long runs for Smith Center junior Kody Molzahn, Sterling's line on both sides controlled the game, yet those two long runs, sandwiching a blocked punt for a safety, set up a 16-0 lead for the Redmen (6-4).
While the Sterling defensive line figured some things out, Galyon kept Smith Center's offense off the field, sustaining a nearly 10-minute drive in the second quarter with 21 of his 48 carries. He ended the night with 277 rushing yards.
"They played really well," longtime Redmen coach Roger Barta said. "(Galyon) is just a good player and they were awfully big for us. We're so small and they just kind of wore us down."
After the long drive, though, Molzahn broke free for his 79-yard TD run near the end of the second quarter. Smith Center had the ball for just four plays in the second quarter, but led 16-0 at halftime.
"The momentum was against us," Hendricks said. "We have played that way all year. We've never quit. They play hard to the last snap."
The second half was all Black Bears. Sterling (4-6) took the opening drive 69 yards, capped by a 49-yard catch-and-run from Galyon to junior Layne Tommer for Sterling's first points. After a sack of Smith Center senior Payton Buckmaster on fourth down, Sterling scored again, going 65 yards with a 1-yard run for Galyon to narrow the gap. Sterling kept the drive alive on a fake punt on fourth down that resulted in a 41-yard run for junior Austin Myers.
"They made some big plays," Barta said. "They faked that punt, and we knew (at some point) that was going to happen, and they executed it well."
Smtih Center had just 14 yards in the third quarter after rushing for 193 in the first half.
"We knew if we just tackled, we could control their offense, and (offensively) we knew we were just one or two blocks on linebackers away from having the plays we wanted," Hendricks said. "Our line stepped up the second half and just did a superb job."
In the second half, Sterling outgained the Redmen 290-20, and the Black Bears took the lead for good with a 38-yard run by Myers, a rare break from Galyon. With 1:40 left, Galyon ran in from 15 yards out to put the game out of reach.
"We have some other weapons and when we need them, they step up and make the plays," Hendricks said.
Galyon's 48 carries and 277 yards were both season-highs, while Myers added 92 yards on 10 touches. Smith Center was outgained 424-214 with 142 coming from Molzahn (128 on two plays).
Smith Center, which returned just one offensive starter this year went undefeated in district play after starting the season 1-3.
"We're proud of our kids," Barta said. "They really improved during the course of this year.
"We're happy for them," he added. "We'd like to win, but we did alright for what we had."
Sterling will host Meade (9-1) in next week's second-round game.
Meade 47 Decatur Community 0
Meade's Chris Hardaway ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns and Trevin Wiens added 127 and three score as the Buffaloes steamrolled Oberlin-Decatur Community, 47-0.
Hardaway also threw for 94 yards and a score as Meade led 20-0 after one quarter, and 33-0 at halftime.
Chris Anderson had 86 yards rushing and Dayton Dreher passed for 31 yards for the Red Devils (4-6).