Junction City opened its second-round playoff game against Dodge City with two touchdowns in the first 24 seconds of play. It was a preview of things to come.
The Blue Jays blew away the previously undefeated Demons away, winning 54-7 on the road to move on in Class 6A bracket.
The three-hour trip did not interfere with the game plan for the Blue Jays (8-2), as they came onto the field with a mission.
After the opening kickoff sailed through the end zone, Junction City opened play on the 20-yard line. Quarterback Andrew Khoury handed the ball off to Chris Randolph, who used solid blocking downfield to take the ball 80 yards for the score.
“We expected them to bring seven-man pressure against us and try to get to us before we can get the ball out,” Junction City head coach Randall Zimmerman said. “They played zero cover all night; that’s what they played all year long. ... So we just ran the receivers off (and) ran them away from the play.
“Some great downfield blocks with that play as well — just receivers downfield making blocks after (their) defensive backs sensed that it wasn’t a pass,” he added. “But you know, they got it started, and then the very next possession, we just go in right away on a little inside seam route, which our kids ran very well a number of times tonight, end up getting a big play there to ‘Q.’”
Zimmerman was referring to the second offensive play for the Blue Jays. After recovering a pooched kick from Thomas Green on the Dodge City 35-yard line, Qua’Vez Humphreys caught a short pass from Khoury for the second TD in two plays from the line of scrimmage.
“We got a little bit happy on the sideline. We’re celebrating a little bit too much, and then that affected us the next time we went out on offense,” Zimmerman said.
Dodge City (9-1) committed a turnover on its next possession when Javon George intercepted the ball near midfield.
After a quick 23-yard strike to Ethan Alcorn, the Blue Jays were knocking on the door of another score. But this time, the Red Demons’ defense stiffened, stopping the Blue Jays on the 21-yard line, leading to a fourth-and-4 for the Blue Jays.
The ensuing pass missed giving the Red Demons the ball back with 7:46 to play in the quarter.
Dodge City moved the ball downfield on the legs of their quarterback and leading rusher. This included several successful third- and fourth-and-long conversions that were broken for first downs to extend the drive.
As time expired in the first quarter, the Demons faced fourth-and-2 from the Junction City 7-yard line. Dodge City tried to sneak it in to open the second quarter, but Junction City’s defense came up with a stop of its own to force a turnover on downs.
After Junction City was forced to punt, Dodge City got the ball back and moved steadily toward the end zone again. This time, it was successful on a 3-yard scramble for what turned out to be the hosts’ lone score.
The Blue Jays responded with a 67-yard catch and run by Russell Wilkey with 4:31 remaining in the half.
Junction City called on Randolph again late in the half, as he pushed through defenders for a 2-yard TD with 1:45 remaining to give the visitors a 27-7 halftime lead.
The offense and defense of Junction City continued to control the game in the second half, as the offense put up 21 third-quarter points while the defense blanked the Red Demons.
Sophomore Qua’Shone “Puma” Page put the final dagger into the scoreboard after a combination of rushes and a 4-yard pass pushed the score to 54-7 early in the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Blue Jays set up a Centennial League clash against Topeka High in the next round of the playoffs. Topeka will host the contest next week at Hummer Sports Park.
The two teams met earlier in the season, with Junction City handing the Trojans their only loss on a last-second TD to take the 48-41 victory in Week 4.
“(Topeka’s a) very talented football team,” Zimmerman said. “Tremendously, physically, gifted quarterback (and) running back; very big offensive line; huge tight end; middle linebacker — we’ll have our hands full. We know that. We played over there once already this year and we’ll have our hands full against them, that’s for sure.”
With one win over the Trojans in his pocket already, Zimmerman knows repeating the feat won’t be an easy task.
“They improved a bunch throughout the year,” he said. “We need to keep putting games together like we did tonight.”
With the advancement to the quarterfinals, three Centennial League teams are still battling for their shot at a state title.
Manhattan travels to the top seed in the west, Derby. Derby has won the class 6A title five out of the last six years, including last season.
The winners of the Junction City/Topeka and Manhattan/Derby matchups will meet in the sub-state championship game Nov. 22.