In a classic football battle of two unbeaten teams Saturday at Madison High School, the Goessel Bluebirds ended their season in regionals with a 42-34 loss.
From the looks of the players on the field, it appeared the Bulldogs would easily push their way down the field.
For five minutes in the first quarter the scenario proved true.
Goessel received the kickoff and earned two first downs on Bulldog penalties, allowing the Bluebirds to reach the one-yard line.
A muffed pitch in the Bluebird backfield moved the ball back to the 13-yard line and Madison held the Bluebirds on fourth down to take over on offense.
The Bulldogs marched down the field in less than four minutes to score and the Bluebirds were behind 8-0 after each team’s first possession.
Going into a stiff breeze and 37-degree temperatures, Goessel found its offense with Craig Banman catching two passes and finishing the drive with a two-yard run for the score.
Austin Unruh ran in the two-point conversion and the Bluebirds tied the game at eight.
Michael Luthi, the workhorse of the Madison team, followed blockers downfield and took the ball across the goal line early in the second quarter.
The Bluebirds stopped the extra point attempt and trailed 14-8.
With 10 minutes, 57 seconds left in the second quarter, Madison picked off an Unruh pass, setting up good field position.
However, Weston Hiebert caused a fumble in the Madison back field, and the Bluebirds recovered the ball.
Madison’s defense again held the Bluebirds as the Bulldogs took over on downs.
After a Goessel pass interference call, Madison scored around the left side of the field and converted the extra points, giving the home team a 22-8 lead.
Goessel ground out several first downs, and with the breeze at their backs in the second quarter, Unruh found Kendall Voth all alone in the Bulldog secondary and the receiver walked into the end zone for a touchdown.
Goessel trailed with 4:29 in the second quarter, 22-14.
GHS’ defense came up with a big play, as Nathan Walker and Hiebert met Luthi in the Madison back field, forcing the Bulldogs to punt for the first time.
With the clock running down, the Bluebirds moved the ball down field.
A facemask penalty on the Bulldogs allowed the Bluebird drive to continue, with 28 seconds on the clock.
Unruh found Banman in the end zone for a 19-yard pass play. The Bluebirds went into the break trailing 22-20.
The Bluebird defense forced Madison to punt again to start the third quarter, but the offense could not muster a score.
With just more than four minutes to play in the third, Madison finished a long drive with Luthi crossing the goal line from one yard.
Luthi converted the extra point, giving Madison a 10-point lead, 30-20.
The Bulldogs tried a short low kick and the Bluebirds fumbled the ball, giving the home team good field position and another chance to drive in for a score.
However, Travis Fensky had other ideas, as he recovered a fumble with 1:25 to play in the third quarter.
Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Banman got loose around the right sideline and went 20-yards for a collision at the goal line.
The referee signaled touchdown, and with a conversion by Cameron Stultz, the Bluebirds again trailed by two points, 30-28.
Knowing the success that the Bulldogs had in running the ball for three quarters, everyone was surprised when the quarterback dropped back to pass.
Hiebert went high for the interception and returned the ball into Bulldog territory.
Goessel would have to punt and again hold steady on defense to keep the game close.
The Madison quarterback, trying to make a spin move out of a tackle, fumbled the ball and the Bluebirds had another chance from only 21 yards away to take the lead.
Like clockwork, the Bluebirds drove the ball down the field.
Banman ran around the right side getting a first down, and Unruh kept the ball and ran to the two-yard line.
Banman then went up the middle for another yard, and Fensky followed blockers for the final yard and a score, giving the Bluebirds their first lead in the game, 34-30, with 6:31 left on the clock.
A Bluebird short kick, against the wind, did not work and Madison took over near mid-field.
The Bulldogs scored with 3:45 to play, grabbing the lead back, 36-34.
Goessel moved the ball into Bulldog territory, but passing into the wind proved difficult and Madison took over on downs.
The Bulldogs were able to score with 33 seconds to play in the game but the Bluebird defense prevented the extra points leaving it a one-possession game 42-34.
A pass to Kendall Voth moved the ball into Bulldog territory.
However, several long passes near the end zone fell incomplete, with the last pass deflected and nearly retrieved by a Bluebird receiver.
Goessel’s electrifying season came to an end with a record of 10-1.
The Bluebirds finished as one of the elite eight teams in eight-man Divison I.
The Bluebirds dominated first-round action Nov. 4 against Flint Hills 46-0, to advance to play Madison.