By AUSTIN COLBERT
MEADE -- Despite complete dominance by the Meade High School football team over the first two quarters, Smith Center was very much in the game at halftime on Friday in the second round of the Class 2-1A state playoffs.
The Redmen forced Meade into turnovers on its final four possessions of the half, including two fourth-and-goal stops. Even with an anemic offense, Smith Center only trailed by a touchdown at the break.
"That lets you go into halftime feeling good about yourself. With the possibility once you get the ball coming out after the half, if we could go down and put a drive together and score, then who knows?" Smith Center coach Darren Sasse said. "The emotion is so much a part of the game, if we get a drive right there and start believing a little bit more then things might turn around."
However, Meade (10-1) made sure nothing turned around for the Redmen. The Buffaloes dominated the second half as equally as the first -- this time finishing their scoring drives -- and defeated Smith Center 28-0.
It was the first time Smith Center (8-3) had been shutout since a 54-0 loss to Beloit in Week 2 of last season.
Smith Center went 17 yards before having to punt on its opening possession of the second half. Meade answered with a quick touchdown drive, capping it off with a 2-yard TD run by Meade quarterback Jett Little. The TD was set up by a 47-yard run from Morgan Olvera the play before.
"It's extremely frustrating not being able to get in the end zone inside the 5-yard line," Little said. "We just gathered ourselves at halftime and came back out and put it to them."
After Smith Center went three-and-out on its next possession, Meade went 51 yards in eight plays and Little found the end zone again, this time from 7 yards, to give Meade a 21-0 lead late in the third quarter.
The game's final score came with 9:01 to play, a 4-yard TD run by Little, his third of the game.
Smith Center's best chance to score came on its final possession, where it advanced the ball to Meade's 7-yard line, its only visit to the red zone.
The drive ended without points after Meade's Kash Larrabee intercepted Redmen senior quarterback Kody Molzahn in the end zone.
"You don't get shutouts very often, particularly in the playoffs against a team like that," Meade coach Scott Moshier said. "We knew what type of speed it was going to be and how hard they were going to play and knew what we needed to do. It's hard to simulate that in practice, but we spent a lot of time watching film and trying to do what we need to do to get prepared and get us in the right spot. We played great defensively."
Meade led 7-0 at halftime after scoring on the game's first possession. The Buffaloes went 70 yards on 14 plays, all runs, taking up nearly half the quarter and finishing it with a 1-yard Olvera TD run.
Smith Center had only three first downs in the first half in four possessions, all coming on the first drive. Back-to-back incompletions by Molzahn led to a Redmen punt just past midfield.
Meade continued to run the ball at will, but had one drive end after they were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and another on fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line. The Buffaloes' final two drives ended with a fumble and an interception on the final play of the half.
"I think our biggest problem was their defense. People think I'm crazy, but the fact that we couldn't get anything going offensively just put a ton of pressure on us," Sasse said. "I think if we could have gotten a few things going offensively, then maybe things could have gone a little different."
Meade outrushed Smith Center 354 yards to 90, and had 20 first downs to seven for the Redmen.
Olvera led the Buffaloes with 180 yards on 27 carries, while Little finished with 169 yards on 35 carries. Senior Grant Lambert led Smith Center with 31 yards on 10 carries.
Meade will play at La Crosse (11-0) on Friday in the Class 2-1A state semifinals. Smith Center finishes 8-3 in its first season under Sasse, who replaced legendary coach Roger Barta after his 35 seasons.
"We had a great group of seniors and a great group of assistant coaches. That's what made it a great opportunity for me," Sasse said. "Obviously I would have liked to have played a little bit longer, but I'm happy with where we have the program."