Shock and awe

Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

By Kyle Palmer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 23, 2017 - 4:04 PM

Bishop Miege coaches say they like their team to strike fast. Indeed, Friday night’s Homecoming game versus Blue Valley North hinged on a first-quarter flurry that proved decisive in the Stags’ 33-14 win over the Mustangs.

After falling behind a touchdown, the three-time defending Kansas Class 4A-I champions ripped off 23 points in roughly eight minutes, highlighted by a blocked punt for a touchdown. The Mustangs never quite recovered.

“They got the ball in their playmakers’ hands early, and hit some big plays on their first drive. We knew we had to bear down after that,” Stags coach John Holmes said.

Before Bishop Miege’s run, Blue Valley North stunned the overflow crowd at the start. Mustangs junior quarterback Graham Mertz, who spent his first two years of high school at Bishop Miege before transferring this spring, hit Vincent Allen for a 55-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.

Then, Mertz hooked up with Grant Hamel for a 27-yard touchdown, and just like that, Blue Valley North led 7-0.

Few of Mertz’s former Stags teammates were surprised.

“I’ve known Graham since second grade,” said Bishop Miege junior linebacker Dylan Downing. “Playing him is fun and really competitive. We still mess with each other and talk, even though we go to different schools.”

“Graham is a hell of a quarterback. That’s a Division I quality arm there,” Holmes said.

Down 7-0, the Stags responded on their ensuing drive, marching 65 yards on 8 plays, capped by a 19-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Cameron Clark.

Getting the ball back with the game now tied 7-7, the Mustangs did something they hadn’t done all season: turn the ball over.

A third-down pass from Mertz to tight end Dylan Freberg was good for a first down, but the ball came loose. The Stags recovered in Blue Valley North territory.

Two plays later, Bishop Miege quarterback Carter Putz fooled the Mustangs’ defense (and not a few people in the stands) with a fake handoff. He kept it himself for a 52-yard touchdown run to put his team up 14-7.

The Stags’ quick strike blitz wasn’t done, though.

Held to a three-and-out on their next drive, Blue Valley North opted to punt deep in their own zone. Bishop Miege rushed the line and blocked the punt. Senior backup tight end Henry Gibson picked up the ball off the bounce and ran it in for a backbreaking score.

“That’s disappointing, the blocked punt. That was the turning point,” Blue Valley North coach Andy Sims said. “But we’re a good football team. We’re just trying to find our identity right now.”

It was his team’s third straight loss after a season-opening win.

The Stags tacked on two field goals before halftime and scored on the opening drive of the second half, another touchdown run by Cobbins. In total, Bishop Miege put up 33 unanswered points after the Mustangs’ initial score.

Mertz, hobbled by a cramping leg in the second half, still finished with a solid line: more than 230 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Junior running back Tony Bragulla led the Mustangs in rushing with 70 tough yards, most of them coming in the second half.

Putz ended up leading Bishop Miege in rushing on the night with 94 yards and the long touchdown, followed by Cobbins, who topped 80 yards with two scores.   

Next week, Bishop Miege (4-0) goes on the road to play Blue Valley West. Blue Valley North (1-3) plays at Gardner-Edgerton.