By AUSTIN COLBERT
On one hand, Thursday's regular-season finale between Thomas More Prep-Marian and Norton Community High School at Lewis Field Stadium didn't mean a whole lot. TMP's playoff hopes were already gone, and the Bluejays had previously clinched the Class 3A, District 14 championship in Week 8 with a 34-16 win over Beloit.
On the other hand, the Monarchs were still searching for that elusive first win and Norton was looking to put the final touches on a perfect regular season and perfect run through the new-look MCL.
"We talked about it," Norton coach Lucas Melvin said of Thursday's game and what it meant. "We talked about wanting to be undefeated league champs, too, because TMP is new to the league and we wanted to make sure we got that taken care of. Then also, just finishing off the regular season undefeated."
And Norton would accomplish just that, beating TMP 42-6 to finish the regular season a perfect 9-0 for the first time since 2010. With both the district title and MCL title in hand, the Bluejays will turn their attention toward the playoffs and Riley County (5-4), which makes the trip to Norton on Tuesday for the first round of the 3A playoffs.
TMP's season ends with a 0-9 record.
The Monarchs hung tough with Norton through a quarter, Norton scoring on a 22-yard Jared Tallent touchdown run on its opening possession. It wasn't until the second quarter when the score took a heavy swing in Norton's favor, Bluejay junior quarterback Jordan Dole rushing for three touchdowns and a fourth by senior running back Christian Boser to give Norton a 32-0 halftime lead.
"I think we weren't quite as focused as we needed to be, but we kind of tuned back in in the second quarter and took care of things," Melvin said. "Just wish we wouldn't have been as sluggish. So we are going to have to turn around and get ready real quick."
Trailing 42-0 in the fourth quarter, the Monarchs only points came on their final possession, a 27-yard touchdown pass from freshman backup quarterback David McFarland to junior T.J. Flax.
Norton totaled 566 yards of offense against TMP, with 511 coming on the ground. Tallent led the Bluejays with 233 yards on 24 carries, while Dole had 163 yards on 15 carries.
The Monarchs were held to just 86 yards of total offense.
"Well, that's what we worked for, for sure," Melvin said of Norton's district title. "We take it a game at a time, so that's the big thing, just trying to each game get a little better. I felt like these guys have been doing that, so that's a good thing."
This will be Norton's first playoff appearance since 2012, which ended with a first-round loss to Salina-Sacred Heart.