CONWAY SPRINGS — Hesston quarterback Cameron Cox did his best Brett Farve imitation at the end of each half of Saturday’s Class 3A playoff game against unbeaten Conway Springs.
Running the two-minute drill at the end of each half, Hesston scored a touchdown at the end of the first and set up a 24-yard Jorge Morales field goal at the end of the second to pace the Swathers to a 45-42 win over the Cardinals.
“The coach was telling me that I was going to hit a field goal to win the game,” Morales said. “I was thinking, that would be so hype if that happens. They scored. We got the ball back. I knew the team was going to move down the field and get me in range. Jamie (assistant coach Jamison Unruh) called it.”
Conway Springs kept Morales on the sideline for most of the game because the Cardinals set the tone first by going for two-point conversions, forcing Hesston to keep pace. Each team completed three of seven two-point conversion attempts.
“That didn’t bother me,” Morales said. “They told me to warm up. I had my leg ready. It was a chip shot.”
Morales’ kick was a high looper that appeared to go through the center of the uprights with several yards to spare.
Cox finished the day hitting 18 of 26 passes for 273 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Cox also rushed 29 times for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
“They were playing back a little bit, so I could find some targets over the middle,” Cox said. “Our receivers made great plays all night.”
Hesston seems to be repeating a script from last season, getting off to a slow start and finishing strong. Hesston was 1-3 last season and then won nine straight before falling in the state finals. Hesston was 2-3 this season before running off six straight.
“We’re all brothers,” Cox said. “We all hang out together. We knew we could do it.”
“Our schedule is front loaded with some very, very tough opponents,” Hesston coach Tyson Bauerle said. “You look at their records and how they ended up. We’ve played some tough teams and that gets us ready for teams like this in the playoffs.”
Cox played receiver last season, but moved to quarterback upon the graduation of Zach Esau.
“I knew that was going to happen, so I was prepared for it,” Cox said.
Each team made just one stop on defense. Hesston’s defense forced the sole punt.
“Those were two good offenses out there,” Bauerle said. “You just hoped to have the ball last. Landon Spencer made a great catch at the end. He’s a sophomore and doing some really nice things. A lot of people key on our big three. You saw what our other guys are doing.”
Bauerle is in his first season as the Swathers’ head coach. He coached against Hesston last season in the first round of the playoffs.
“We come in expecting to win,” Bauerle said. “We don’t believe the hype about other teams. We expect to win. … I have to give a lot of credit to the assistant coaches. We got together in the summer and worked a lot on schemes and personnel stuff. We’re trying to get the ball to people who can move the ball and go.”
Parker Roth had 17 carries for 95 yards. Reece Nebel had eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Martin had two catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
For Conway Springs, 10-1, Trenton Jones had 28 carries for 169 yards and four touchdowns. Colton Terhune had 19 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. Terhune also hit his sole pass attempt for 47 yards and a score.
Hesston got deep in the red zone on its first possession of the game, but an Andrew Friess interception and 60-yard return set up a 14-yard Jones touchdown run. Hesston drove right back, scoring on a 21-yard Cox run. Each team’s two-point run attempt was stopped short.
Conway Springs came right back with a long drive that ended in a three-yard Terhune run. Terhune hit Chase Blaine for a a two-point conversion.
Hesston came back with a five-yard Cox run. The PAT run attempt was stopped short. After a defensive stop, Cox hit a 22-yard pass to Nebel to put the Swathers in the lead. Cox ran in the two-point conversion.
Conway Springs needed just 32 seconds to answer, scoring on a 46-yard pass from Terhune to Zachary Mercer. Jones ran in the two-point conversion.
Hesston ran the two-minute drill to near perfection in the remaining time, scoring on a 29-yard pass from Cox to Martin. Roth ran in the two-point conversion to put Hesston up 28-22.
“That was a great catch by Mitchell Martin just before the half,” Bauerle said. “That was huge to get us back on top and get us the ball in the second half. We didn’t do much to stop them, so that was big.”
Hesston held a 325-150 advantage in total offense in the first half.
Conway Springs opened the second half by going 69 yards in six plays, scoring on a 31-yard Jones run. The PAT run was stopped. Hesston used 11 plays to go 61 yards, scoring on a three-yard Cox run.
The Cardinals replied again, going 69 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a four-yard Jones run. The PAT pass was incomplete.
Hesston regained the lead on a 15-play, 66-yard drive, scoring on a nine-yard pass from Cox to D.J. Toews. Roth ran in the two-point conversion.
Conway Springs scored with 3:38 in regulation on a four-yard Jones run. Terhune hit Blaine for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Hesston was hit with a pair of penalties on its next possession, but still managed to string together first downs. The Swathers were then aided by a pass interference call to get in Cardinal territory. A 24-yard pass from Cox to Spencer put the Swathers on the seven. Hesston ran the clock down to one second left to set up Morales’ field goal.
Hesston, 8-3, hosts unbeaten Phillipsburg at 6 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals.
Hesston will face 11-0 Phillipsburg for the second straight year in the quarterfinals. Last season, Hesston won 38-26, pulling away from a close game at the half.
“They’re going to be a tough, hard-nosed team,” Bauerle said. “That’s their trademark.”
1q. CS Jones 1-yd. run (run failed) 4:48
1q. H Cox 25-yd. run (run failed) 1:22
2q. CS Terhune 3-yd. run (Blaine pass from Terhune) 8:12
2q. H Cox 4-yd. run (run failed) 5:41
2q. H Nebel 19-yd. pass from Cox (Cox run) 2:08
2q. CS Mercer 47-yd. pass from Terhune (Jones run) 1:36
2q. H Martin 28-yd. pass from Cox (Roth run) :00
3q. CS Jones 31-yd. run (run failed) 9:44
3q. H Cox 3-yd. run (run failed) 6:21
3q. CS Jones 4-yd. run (pass failed) 1:59
4q. H Toews 9-yd. pass from Cox (Roth run) 8:51
4q. CS Jones 4-yd. run (Blaine pass from Terhune) 3:38
4q. H Morales 24-yd. field goal :00
Time of poss.;24:57;23:03
RUSHING — Hesston: Cox 29-144, Roth 17-95, Toews 1-(-4), Nebel 1-(-4). Conway Springs: Jones 28-169, Terhune 19-114, Mercer 2-12, May 1-3, Akiu 1-0.
PASSING — Hesston: Cox 18-26-1, 273 yards. Conway Springs: 1-1-0, 47 yards.
RECEIVING — Hesston: Nebel 8-103, Martin 2-63, Spencer 3-47, Toews 3-42, Roth 2-18. Conway Springs: Mercer 1-47.
Missed field goals — none.