SMITH CENTER — Not a single opposing player was within 5 yards of Colton Hutchinson during a long touchdown run Friday night in the third quarter of the Class 2-1A sub-state title game.
So, the senior quarterback for the Smith Center High School football team decided — why not challenge a guy he’d never been able to beat in a good ol’ fashioned foot race?
He wasn’t afraid to admit that after the long run and even a stretch for the tape, he wasn’t able to out-kick senior lineman Dalton Kuhn to the end zone. For his trouble, he took a tumble after the 73-yard score down the home sideline.
But the fall and “silver-medal” showing was seemingly the only setback all night for anyone wearing red. And the fact he was surrounded by only teammates after the sprint pretty much encapsulated just how dominant Smith Center was in a 51-0 throttling of MCL foe Plainville at Hubbard Stadium.
And top top it off, the Redmen are back in the 2-1A title round for the first time since 2009, knocking out the team that kept them a game short a year ago.
“Every time, he beats me. I’m man enough to say that.” Hutchinson said of Kuhn, the Redmen standout 225-pound lineman, referring to the spring track season when the two compete in shuffle drills. “When I had the opportunity to go on the outside, and I saw him slowing up, I tried to creep up on him.”
But Kuhn “must have heard me — and just turned on the burners,” Hutchinson said.
The long run was part of a huge rushing night for the Redmen, who punished Plainville for 545 yards on the ground in a game that after an interception by Cardinal quarterback Jordan Finnesy in the first quarter never was really close. Once Smith Center senior Trace Haven scored from 49 yards and senior Jesse Staples followed with a 73-yard score, it was evident the Redmen weren’t going to be denied.
“These kids have worked hard, and do everything we ask out of them,” said Smith Center coach Darren Sasse, whose team will be back at Lewis Field Stadium in Hays for the first time since the program saw its run of five straight state crowns come up short of six under former coach Roger Barta. “They continue to practice hard and they really believe in each other.”
It produced big plays all night Friday. Smith Center (11-1) scored on runs of 49, 73, 44, 3, 37, 73 and 3. Staples also had a 93-yard run when Smith Center was backed up at the 2-yard line in the second quarter. Staples ended with 221 yards and two scores on just 10 carries. Haven had 135 yards on seven touches and Hesston Maxwell 91 on 14 touches.
“We’re blocking for a long time and having our backs run through the hole even harder than we have since I’ve been here,” said Hutchinson, who had 82 yards on just three carries.
It resulted in the 10th straight blowout, a stretch where Smith Center is averaging 60 points per game and has allowed just four touchdowns in the last nine.
“Coach (Brock) Hutchinson gives us great calls. He puts it in there and we execute,” Kuhn said. “We have a lot of unselfish guys. It doesn’t matter who’s making the tackle, we’re excited for them. That gets us going.”
That defense was firing on all cylinders Friday. Plainville’s first drive resulted in a first-and-goal situation, but Staples picked off Finnesy’s pass on third down at the goal line and returned it to near midfield. It was the only time Plainville truly threatened. The Cardinals had just eight rushing yards while Finnesy passed for 175.
“They’re willing to do their job over and over again,” Sasse said. “We gave up one pass tonight, but the kids really respond well to that stuff, and don’t seem to let it bother them.”
Plainville, a year after a runner-up showing in 2-1A, finished its season 8-4, but won eight straight games after a rough 0-3 stretch to start the year.
Smith Center now will face Pittsburg/St. Mary’s-Colgan (10-2) in a 7 p.m. contest Nov. 25 at Lewis Field Stadium. The game will follow Fort Hays State University’s 1 p.m. NCAA Division II playoff game.
When Smith Center started its stretch of 2-1A titles in 2004, it was Colgan the Redmen knocked off. That win also ended a stretch of four straight 2-1A crowns out of the Pittsburg school.
“Really excited for all of us,” Hutchinson said, talking about coming up a game short of state the past two years. “We’ve been here three years now and it’s been devastating the last two. Rough, but I guess they say the third time’s the charm.”
Here come the hosts. Gamr time. pic.twitter.com/tZv2p40dq5— Nick McQueen (@HDNmcqueen) November 18, 2017