Silver Lake watches 3A state football crown slip away
By Scott Paske
Published Sunday, November 30, 2008
HUTCHINSON — As his teammates gathered their belongings and exited Silver Lake's locker room Saturday afternoon, quarterback Tyler Roberts sat motionless on a chair in the middle of the room.
Eyes downward, Roberts acknowledged occasional hugs and handshakes before launching a lukewarm attempt at unwrapping the athletic tape from his shoes.
"It's amazing how fast it can just slip away from you," Roberts said after Conway Springs rallied past Silver Lake 22-14 to win the Class 3A championship at Gowans Stadium. "We're leading 14-6 with nine minutes to go, and it just shifted like that."
Roberts, a senior, pointed to his role in Conway Springs' charge to its sixth state title, all since 1998. With the Eagles (13-1) up by eight points and driving in Conway Springs territory, Roberts fumbled on the third play of the fourth quarter and the Cardinals' Austin Pauly recovered.
It was the first of two fourth-quarter turnovers that doomed Silver Lake to its sixth loss in seven consecutive title-game appearances.
"That was the biggest turning point in the game right there," said Roberts, who passed for 136 yards and a touchdown. "It gave them hope."
Conway Springs (12-2), held in check with its single-wing offense through three quarters, erased its deficit with a 13-play drive that ended with the first of two touchdowns by senior Jaydan Bird. Bird, who plans to sign with Oklahoma in February, finished with 182 yards on 31 carries. He gained 99 in the final period, including a 37-yard touchdown with 3:24 remaining that gave the Cardinals the lead.
"It seemed like they were starting to pull away a little bit," said Bird, who also hauled in an improbable two-point conversion pass from Pauly after penalties pushed the ball back to Silver Lake's 28. "Then we started creating plays on defense and getting the ball back and giving our offense a chance. Our offensive line did a tremendous job and started blocking the people they needed to block."
After the Cardinals tied the score, Silver Lake's ensuing drive halted when Roberts couldn't get the handle on a third-down shotgun snap and covered it at the Eagles' 8. A 32-yard punt gave Conway Springs the ball with 4:45 to play.
Three plays later, Bird took a snap and headed left, breaking away from Silver Lake's D.J. Johnson and Keenan Kruger on his way to the end zone.
"I don't think we got wore out," said Silver Lake coach C.J. Hamilton, whose team lost a title game to Conway for the fourth time this decade, leaving him tied for second with Sedan's Les Davis on the state's career coaching list with 308 victories. "We just didn't handle the bad situations. I just felt like we were looking around to see who was going to make plays."
Silver Lake, which built its lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Roberts to Quin Bruce in the second quarter and a 2-yard run by Cameron Renfro late in the third, started strong on its final drive. Roberts connected with Bruce for 14 yards, then moved the ball near midfield with a 13-yard pass to Adam Wetzel. But on the next play, Conway's Joey Dugan stripped the ball from Renfro and the Cardinals' Caleb Brill recovered to end the threat with 2:52 remaining.
Bird and Brill churned out two first downs to help Conway Springs seal its first state title since winning four straight from 2001-04.
"We might not have been getting 10 or 15 yards a play, but we were getting 3 or 4," Bird said. "Just enough so we could get first downs and move the chains. We knew we were going to score sometime."
The Cardinals finished with a 301-221 advantage in total offense. In the fourth quarter, Conway Springs ran 22 plays for 127 yards. Silver Lake had nine plays for 36 yards.
"We felt like we had a good shot," Hamilton said. "We felt good going into the game, but you've got to finish it. If you don't finish the game against the caliber of teams you play here, that's exactly what's going to happen."
Silver Lake (13-1) 0 7 7 0 — 14
Conway Springs (12-2) 0 6 0 16 — 22
SL — Bruce 25 pass from Roberts (Abrahams kick)
CS — Green 55 pass from A. Pauly (kick failed)
SL — Renfro 2 run (Abrahams kick)
CS — Byrd 1 run (Byrd run)
CS — Byrd 37 run (Byrd pass from A. Pauly)
GAME IN FIGURES
First downs 11 13
Rushes-yards 28-85 55-228
Passing yards 136 73
Passes 9-16-0 2-2-0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 0-0
Punts-Avg. 5-30.6 5-29.2
Penalties-yards 7-52 8-65
RUSHING — Silver Lake: Renfro 16-81, Wetzel 3-18, Roberts 9-(-14). Conway Springs: Byrd 31-182, Brill 18-36, A. Pauly 2-4, Sones 3-4, N. Pauly 1-2.
PASSING — Silver Lake: Roberts 9-16-0, 136 yards. Conway Springs: A. Pauly 1-1-0, 55 yards; Brill 1-1-0, 18.
RECEIVING — Silver Lake: Bruce 6-90, Wetzel 2-22, Renfro 1-24. Conway Springs: Green 2-73.
PUNTING — Silver Lake: Roberts 5-30.6. Conway Springs: Byrd 5-29.2.