Bulldogs end year with loss to storied program
Silver Lake McLouth High coach Chris Stewart preached to his team that it had to separate Silver Lake’s storied past from the present.
A quick glance Thursday around Silver Lake’s stadium made that a tough task. The press box reads “CJ Hamilton Field,” a tribute to Silver Lake’s current coach, who became the winningest coach in Kansas high school football history in September.
The back side of the football scoreboard lists in detail what the SLHS football program has accomplished — seven state titles to be exact.
But Thursday, Stewart’s squad seemed to buy all of what its coach was selling — the Bulldogs weren’t facing Eagles of falls’ past.
This wasn’t a video game-generated hypothetical matchup against the 2006 or 1984 Silver Lake state championship teams.
And heading into the fourth quarter Thursday, McLouth looked as though it would prevent the Eagles from another state title opportunity.
The Bulldogs headed into the final quarter with a 7-6 lead thanks in large part to a defense that forced five Silver Lake turnovers at that point.
In the fourth quarter, though, the Eagles were able to regain the lead and tack on insurance touchdowns for a 28-7 victory. Silver Lake improved to 8-1 and advanced to the Class 3A playoffs, while McLouth, despite a 7-2 record, was eliminated from playoff consideration with the loss.
The game’s first series had the feel of Silver Lake steamrolling toward another playoff appearance.
McLouth went three-and-out on its first two possessions, while Silver Lake put together a quick five-play drive, capped by a Colby Haverkamp 1-yard touchdown run, on its first possession. SLHS missed the extra point, but led, 6-0, less than four minutes into the game.
McLouth, though, settled in and didn’t allow another score until the fourth quarter. Silver Lake had one touchdown negated before then by a block in the back penalty, but the Bulldogs’ forced turnovers — including three picks by sophomore Nick McAferty — also kept the Eagles from putting together touchdown drives.
McLouth and Silver Lake had back-to-back fumbles in the second quarter, with Silver Lake recovering the first and MHS getting the ball right back with a recovery of its own.
Two plays later, on a play-action pass, MHS junior quarterback Marc Walbridge found Cody McHenry for a 35-yard touchdown pass. A John Berry extra point put McLouth up, 7-6.
In the third quarter, the contest became a game of field position, but the Eagles eventually were able to move the ball with more success.
Silver Lake pulled ahead with 10:44 left in the game with a 17-yard run by sophomore quarterback Dailin Kruger. The Eagles’ two-point conversion attempt was successful and Silver Lake was up, 14-7.
Silver Lake scored on its next possession on a 45-yard Kruger run with 6:23 left, increasing the Eagles advantage to 21-7.
The final score came on a 19-yard Silver Lake run to make the score 28-7. Moments earlier, Silver Lake’s Peter Pfannenstiel intercepted a Walbridge pass deep in McLouth territory. After the interception, McHenry was whistled for a personal foul an ejected from the game after getting into a skirmish with an SLHS player.
Rossville, which defeated McLouth the previous week, advanced as the second-place team out of McLouth’s district with a victory Thursday against Pleasant Ridge. Rossville improved to 8-1 overall and finished district play at 2-1, just ahead of MHS at 1-2.
MHS coach Chris Stewart said after the game he was proud of how his team competed against Silver Lake. Looking toward 2012, he said a strong nucleus would be returning, but the Bulldogs must replace nine seniors and their strong leadership.