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Local Sports News
Sabetha Begins Title Defense by Dominating Rival Nemaha
By Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports
09/01/2018

On paper, there was no doubt Sabetha had a clear advantage in terms of returning starters and experience entering the 2018 football season against rival Nemaha Central.  However, the defending state 3A Champions had lost to Big 7 foe Nemaha 10 straight times in the regular season, dating back to 2008.  However, the Bluejays wasted no time ending the Thunder 23 game Big 7 League winning streak while sprinting to a 26-0 halftime lead and coasting through the final two quarters for the season opening 33-7 home victory.

Sabetha needed just five plays to drive 65 yards on the first possession of the night before new quarterback Gabe Garber broke loose on a 25-yard touchdown.  After Sabetha forced a quick three and out on defense, Ryan Stapleton went untouched around a perfectly blocked wall on a 48-yard punt return for another score and the game never seemed in doubt.  The Jays added four-yard touchdown runs by Mason Engelken and Gaber in the second quarter to lead 26-0 and out-gained Nemaha 246-60 total yards by intermission as the Thunder failed to pick up a first down on four of their five possessions.  Garber's second score was set up by a Nemaha botched punt, which gave Sabetha a short 24-yard field.  

Sabetha had missed a PAT and a two-point conversion in the first half and also failed on a 25-yard field goal in the third quarter.  The Bluejays got a bit sloppy and had seven penalties for 55 yards all in the second half while both team struggled to enter the redzone.  Nemaha put together some impressive offensive drives in the second half and moved the sticks nine times, but averaged just 3.2 yards per rush attempt in the contest.  Joe Gruber scored from three yards out in the fourth quarter to make it 33-0, but the Thunder would avoid the shutout with a Gavin Duryea five yard TD scamper with 3:58 remaining to cap an 80-yard drive.  

Duyrea was a bright spot starting in the backfield for Nemaha Central and led the team with 77 yards on 15 carries while Noe Gauna had 23 yards on five totes and seven different receivers caught a pass.  New signal caller Dalton Schmelzle was 10-23 for 97 yards passing while Andrew Leonard, Cole Kramer and Austin Ahlquist each had two grabs and Matt Baumgartner had a team-high 25 receiving yards with one reception.  Tyler Gerety (sophomore) made a lot of defensive plays from his safety spot and ended the game at quarterback with a couple nice carries for Nemaha Central.  The Thunder (0-1) will host Hiawatha (1-0) next week. 

Sabetha had 402 yards rushing (8.7 yards per carry) and 418 yards total with one completed pass and one interception, which was the only turnover of the night in the second quarter.  Engelken led the Bluejays with 132 yards on 14 carries while Garber earned Citizens State Bank and Trust Company of Hiawatha "Player to Bank on" honors with 115 yards on 18 carries in his first quarterback start and led the defense from his linebacker spot.  Joel Hackney made the most of his seven carries, racking up 81 yards and Gruber chipped in with 74 yards on just six touches.  Elliott Strahm was the Denison State Bank "Lineman of the Game" with a ton of early tackles at the line of scrimmage before he and several others were in and out of the lineup with some leg cramps in the second half.  Cauy Rokey also had a stellar game on both sides of the football for the Bluejays (1-0) who will be at Riverside (0-1) in week two.   

  

  


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Hiawatha, KS 66434
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