WAMEGO — Late in the third quarter Friday night, Wamego forced a Sabetha fumble and recovered it. The Red Raiders went wild. Their fans did, too. The hosts were up 14-7 and looked like they were about to widen their lead.
The drive ended in a punt.
On Sabetha’s next series, though, same thing. Fumble. Wamego recovered again.
“I told the (offensive) line and the team before we got on to that field and ran our first play,” Wamego quarterback Brad Sackrider said, “that this is what’s going to secure the game for us.”
Sackrider’s words proved prophetic.
Minutes later, Sackrider scored on a 3-yard touchdown rush. Wamego seized a two-score lead, more than enough momentum to secure a 28-15 win over Sabetha.
“Our defense has been lights out. Our defense has really showed out,” Wamego head coach Weston Moody said. “They just give us opportunities over and over again. That was huge.
“I didn’t really feel like we understood what they were doing to us defensively and what we could run. We kind of figured it out later, and after we figured it out, we kept trying to run the same stuff over and over again, countering off of that.”
Wamego (6-1), which entered the game ranked No. 6 in Class 3A by CatchItKansas, could afford to do so because Sackrider was so efficient on the ground, carrying 25 times for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Sabetha (5-2), ranked No. 4, rarely could stop him.
The touchdown was so important because Wamego’s scoring plays were few and far between, at least in the first half. Sackrider turned in a sizzling performance, but star running back Isaiah Childs contributed little to his team’s ground attack. He was on the field, but Wamego ran most of its offense through Sackrider and Taybor Vetter while Childs served as a blocker.
But disaster struck late in the fourth for Wamego. After Childs made his sixth and final carry of the game, a 9-yard touchdown rush, he exited the contest with what Moody called a foot injury. After the game, Childs walked into the locker room on crutches.
Moody said Childs would receive an X-ray on Saturday to find out more about the injury.
“We felt like we could use him in the blocking game a little bit more,” Moody said. “That was really just adding a plus-one. Having a 200-pound guy block for you is pretty nice, too. We decided to kind of switch the game plan up a little bit.”
Not to worry. Wamego’s defense made life hard on Sabetha.
The Red Raiders yielded an early touchdown, a 20-yard connection from Gabe Garber to Kaleb Grimm, but they got better as the game continued. The Bluejays’ next four drives, through the third quarter: punt, punt, fumble, fumble.
That held Sabetha off the scoreboard while Wamego got on it.
The good news for Wamego was that it had done enough on defense to produce a three-score cushion. That protected the Red Raiders from danger when Garber scrambled 7 yards into the end zone late in the fourth quarter, trimming the hosts’ lead to 28-15 following a two-point conversion.
Wamego really got rolling when the second quarter began. Sackrider, who racked up 67 rushing yards in the first half alone, used a 21-yard touchdown rush to put his team on the board and level the game at 7-7.
Vetter got in on the action a series later. The Red Raiders took advantage of a forgettable Bluejay punt and took over at the visitors’ 48-yard line, where they drove down to the 10, far enough to hand it off to Vetter and let him do the rest.
Wamego took a 14-7 lead into the intermission.
It was good enough for a win.
Now, Wamego turns its attention to a road test against Holton next week. With a win, the Red Raiders could clinch the top seed in their district because Marysville, the only previously undefeated team in the district, lost to Holton on Friday night.
Translation: There will be a lot at stake when Wamego squares off with Holton next week.
“They want to run the ball. They want to be physical,” Moody said of Holton. “We’re going to have to go to their place, play on grass. It’s not going to be easy. Looking forward to it.”
Sabetha 7 0 0 8 — 15
Wamego 0 14 0 14 — 28
Sabetha — Grimm 20 pass from Garber (PAT good), 4:10
Wamego — Sackrider 21 rush (PAT good), 7:55
Wamego — Vetter 10 rush (PAT good), 2:33
Wamego — Sackrider 3 rush (PAT good), 10:43
Wamego — Childs 9 rush (PAT good), 4:52
Sabetha — Garber 7 rush (PAT good), 2:59
RUSHING — Sabetha: Worthley 3-3, Garber 13-14, Frazee 5-18, Gugelman 6-11 // Wamego: Childs 6-21, Sackrider 25-177, Vetter 10-64
PASSING — Sabetha: Garber 11-18-0 149, Grimm 1-1-0 10 // Wamego: Sackrider 3-6-0 18
RECEIVING — Sabetha: Grimm 6-104, Frazee 1-1, Garber 1-10, Schmelzle 1-19, Argabright 1-11, Duncan 1-19 // Wamego: Childs 2-15, Watson 1-3