“We are going to be faster than most of our competition this year,” head coach Justin Coup said after his Goessel High School Bluebirds defeated Clafin 42-12.
It was the speed that made the difference Friday night.
Clafin moved the football on the opening drive, but had to punt with three minutes gone.
The Bluebirds got the ball on the 13-yard line and 12 seconds later, Craig Banman caught an Austin Unruh pass that went 67 yards for the Bluebirds’ first touchdown.
Cameron Stultz caught an Unruh pass for the PAT and the Bluebirds led 8-0.
With just less than six minutes to play in the first quarter, the Goessel defense kept Claflin from converting a fourth-and-inches and the Bluebirds took over at the 36-yard line.
Several plays later, Banman broke loose and used his speed to go 26 yards for another Bluebird score.
Travis Fensky caught an Unruh pass for the PAT, and Goessel led early in the contest 16-0.
The Wildcats began testing the Bluebird pass defense.
A Goessel player tipped a pass close to the right sideline, but Claflin’s receiver stayed focused on the ball and snagged the pass for a 56-yard score.
The first quarter ended with Goessel in the lead 16-6.
Although Claflin got into the Bluebird backfield with tackles for a loss, the Bluebirds would not be intimidated.
Unruh picked up a fumbled snap from center and rambled for a first down.
With 8:28 to play in the first half, Unruh had to elude several tacklers in the backfield and then launched a wobbly pass downfield.
Fensky caught the pass at the peak of his jump and escaped from several Wildcats for a 31-yard touchdown.
Down 22-6, the Wildcats began to depend on their passing game.
Claflin began to march down the field with short passes. The Wildcats got to the Bluebird eight-yard line, but Cameron Stulz stepped in front of a Claflin pass, grabbed the ball one yard deep in the end zone with a huge defensive interception with 33 seconds to play in the half.
In the second half, Goessel executed plays for big gains, but scoring was difficult.
Bryant Miller, Austin Cooper, and Weston Hiebert created seams for the Bluebird runners and protected the quarterback on passing plays.
Fensky took the ball 34 yards to the right side and Banman caught a 19-yard pass in the end zone for the Bluebirds’ only score in the third period.
Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Unruh threw a desperation pass high and into the middle of the field to no one in particular.
Banman saw his quarterback in trouble, circled from the left sideline under the pass at the five-yard line, and went untouched into the end zone.
Goessel’s defense kept the Wildcats from getting any quick points as Alex Ross, Stultz, Berkholz, and Hiebert made some fine tackles for short passing plays.
Claflin finally scored with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass to cut Goessel’s lead to 34-12.
With just more than six minutes to play in the game, Banman again used his speed as he burst through a hole in the line and outran all the defenders for a 50-yard touchdown.
The Bluebirds led 42-12 after Unruh found Fensky for the extra points.
Both teams punted once more and the Bluebirds were able to run out the clock for their fourth victory of the season.
Before the season started, Coach Coup was concerned about the offensive line.
“Our line was actually blocking well,” Banman said.
The Wichita Eagle had Goessel ranked second and Claflin third in eight-man Division I before the game began.
“This was a big game for us,” Coup said. “It’s what you expect when number two plays number three.”
Goessel will be at Stafford Friday for another district game. The Bluebirds are now 2-0 in district play and 4-0 overall.