PHILLIPSBURG — It probably wasjust going to be a matter of time before the Panthers' football team gave up any points in the first quarter, or maybe even trail in a game this season.
Marysville High School sophomore running back Atreyau Hornbeak put both of those matters to rest when he broke through the middle of the line for a 1-yard touchdown 7 minutes and 50 seconds into Friday's Class 3A sub-state championship game in Phillipsburg. The scoring drive was set up by a Panther junior Treylan Gross fumble Marysville recovered at its own 33.
From there, Hornbeak and the Bulldogs did something no one else has done against Phillipsburg this season — match them in every way. By the end, the Panthers, who simply dominated the competition all season, had no answer to beat Marysville. As time ran out, the scoreboard showed Phillipsburg with its first loss, 30-24.
"I think it was a well played game on both sides," Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington said. "It was back and forth. Chess matches. (Marysville) did what they needed to do to win. We were close a few times. We just didn't quite get things done."
Through the first 12 games, Phillipsburg (12-1) had outscored the opposition 206-0 in the first quarter. Trailing 8-0 going into the second quarter Friday, the Panthers hardly blinked at the notion of being down. Freshman quarterback Ty Sides — starting his second game in place of his injured brother junior Trey Sides — helped engineer his team 97 yards. The Panthers used 16 run plays, finished with Sides scoring on a 2-yard run.
"I don't think there was ever any panic on our kids part," Covington said of the early deficit. "We just wanted to stay the course and keep after them and stay physical.
"I was impressed with how (Sides) played. He threw the ball well. He didn't make any mistakes… He fit right in."
Marysville (12-1) went ahead 14-7 on 43-yard pass by senior Jack Blumer to junior receiver Jacob Backus. The Panthers responded after a short kickoff by Marysville and tied the game with :29 seconds left before halftime. Sides hit senior split end Trey Thompson with a 14 yard pass.
Phillipsburg avoided disaster right before halftime as Blumer found a crease and went 70 yards on a run to the Panthers' 17. The Bulldogs took two shots at a touchdown pass, but both fell incomplete.
"I think for us to punch one early was huge for us," Blumer said of the first half. "I felt like (Phillipsburg) were on their heels for sure.
"The energy went through the roof soon as we scored that first touchdown."
The Panthers punted on their first possession of the second half, but got their first break of the game when senior defensive back Braden Juenemann intercepted a Blumer pass. Needing just 37 yards, the Panthers plowed their way to the 1 yard line. Senior John Gower finished the drive with a run through the middle. Standout kicker junior Jon Hunnacutt put Phillipsburg up 21-14 with the extra point, then knocked the kickoff through the endzone for a touchback.
Marysville had a response with the help of big plays, such as a 31 yard reception by senior Gabe PIeschl and 14 yard grab from Backus. Hornbeak scored on an 11-yard run, then Blumer found senior Brennan Wetter for a two-point pass, putting Marysville up 22-21 with 2:46 left in the third quarter.
With 9:16 showing in the game, the Panthers elected to go with a 20-yard field goal into the wind by Hunnacutt, taking a 24-22 lead.
Once again, Marysville had the response and with 3:32 remaining, Hornbeak scored his third touchdown with a 2-yard run, followed by Blumer running in the two-point conversion.
"We knew we had a lot of experience coming into this year and we're losing 16 seniors," Covington said. "It's a grind. This is our 13th game and all year long there have been a lot of tough battles. These kids have hung in there and they really bonded well all year. I think that says a lot for them."
On their final attempt, Phillipsburg was able to get to midfield and was held to a fourth-and-3. The Panthers went with a pitch to senior Kirk Coomes, who was hit and brought down in the backfield for a loss. Marysville was able to run out the final 1:26 of game time, despite back-to-back 5 yard penalties.
Held in check with his longest run being 24 yards, Coomes led the Panthers in rushing with 102 yards on 25 carries. Sides was 2-of-4 passing for 26 yards with his touchdown pass to Thompson. The Panthers had 313 yards of total offense and gave up 362 to Marysville.
The Bulldogs advance to the 3A state championship Nov. 25 in Hutchinson. They will play Sabetha, who beat Silver Lake in the East sub-state final, 17-14.