Little River wins shootout with Wichita County
The Little River High School football team racked up 70 points against Wichita County Saturday in the Eight-Man I championships and that was nearly not enough in a 70-58 win at Fischer Field.
Little River won its fifth state title, but the first since 1999.
Jayden Garrison led Little River with 218 yards rushing and four touchdowns, 73 yards passing and a touchdown and 56 yards receiving and a touchdown.
“It was a great team effort,” Garrison said. “We have a lot of weapons, not just me. We have a great O line. We have great coaches. We came together to play tonight. We came as one unit. Some things didn’t go our way, but we bounced back and never gave up. There was no individual effort. I’m just proud to see us get a win in this. We knew it was going to be a shootout. A couple of turnovers and a couple stops would win it. We just kept scoring and ended up in the W column as state champion.”
“We kind of saw that it was going to be an offensive battle,” Little River coach Kevin Ayers said. “We knew how good they are on the offensive side of the ball. We knew they were going to put points up on the board. We just had to match that. We stole a couple of possessions there — we recovered an on-side (kick). We forced a punt. We were so fortunate to hang on.”
“Little River is a really good offensive team,” Wichita County coach Brant Douglas said. “They’re no. 4 in scoring this season. We had to get stops. We had to win one-on-one battles to stop them. They were winning them. Especially in the first half, they were winning them. In the second half, we did much better — especially offensively. We were doing what we needed to do to put points on the board. Unfortunately, tonight that wasn’t enough.”
Graham Stephens added 89 yards rushing and three touchdowns and 64 yards passing with two touchdowns. Braxton Lafferty had 73 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Wichita County was led by Kayde Rietzke with 193 yards rushing and three touchdowns and 205 yards passing and two touchdowns. Sheldon Whalen had 107 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
There were two touchdowns in the first minute of play and four in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the first quarter. Up 34-30 with 8:12 in the first half, Little River scored on a 16-yard Graham Stephens run, recovered the on-side kick and scored on a six-yard Graham Stephens run. After Wichita County’s first punt of the game, Graham Stephens hit an eight-yard touchdown pass to Braden Young with one second remaining in the half, putting Little River up 54-30.
Wichita County opened the second half with a pair of scores. The second was set up by a Little River fumble. The two teams traded touchdowns to end the period.
Little River appeared to take control on a 57-yard, 11-play drive that ended on a four-yard Garrison run.
Wichita County got back within 12 on a Teagan Bishop one-yard run with 5:04 to play. The drive took 3:20. Little River was able to get the ball back and run out the clock.
“When they get the lead, it’s tough to come back on them,” Douglas said. “They were able to chew up the clock every possession — not just when they wanted to — with their option game.”
“We could feel yourself tighten up, but the kids came back and put some points on the board,” Ayers said. “This game had such momentum shifts. You could feel it go up and down. When they came back, our kids did a great job of responding to it.”
Wichita County finishes the season 12-1, reaching the state finals for the first time.
“We were fortunate to have a season at all this year,” Douglas said. “It was a good season. We didn’t end it like we wanted to, but there are only eight teams in the state that do. It’s a special moment. Hopefully this will give us an incentive try to keep improving every year.”
Little River ends the season 11-2, winning eight straight since a loss to Wheat State League rival and defending state champ Canton-Galva.
“Losses really can be good for you if just allow them to,” Ayers said. “They help the kids to get motivated and to get better. They bought in and they improved. It’s a tough league and it really helped us get ready for this. We came away from the Canton-Galva game a better team.”
Little River 70, Wichita County 58
1q. LR Garrison 46-yd. run (run failed) 11:17
1q. WC Porter 79-yd. kickoff return (run failed) 11:05
1q. LR Garrison 1-yd. run (run failed) 6:19
1q. LR Grah.Stephens 9-yd. run (Garrison run) 2:15
1q. WC Rietzke 63-yd. run (Rietzke run) 1:49
1q. LR Garrison 39-yd. run (Garrison run) 1:31
1q. WC Whalen 68-yd. pass from Rietzke (Chavez pass from Rietzke) :50
2q. LR Garrison 21-yd. pass from Grah.Stephens (run failed) 11:23
2q. WC Chavez 21-yd. pass from Rietzke (Rietzke run) 8:12
2q. LR Grah.Stephens 16-yd. run (pass failed) 4:21
2q. LR Grah.Stephens 6-yd. run (run failed) 1:55
2q. LR Young 8-yd. pass from Grah.Stephens (Herzog pass from Grah.Stephens) :01
3q. WC Rietzke 43-yd. run (Rietzke run) 10:46
3q. WC Rietzke 1-yd. run (pass failed) 9:21
3q. LR Lafferty 43-yd. pass from Garrison (Grah.Stephens pass from Garrison) 7:47
3q. WC Whalen 7-yd. pass from Rietzke (run failed) 3:01
4q. LR Garrison 4-yd. run (Grah.Stephens run) 8:24
4q. WC Bishop 1-yd. run (Chavez pass from Rietzke) 5:04
RUSHING — Little River: Garrison 34-218, Grah.Stephens 22-89. Wichita County: Rietzke 24-193, Gardner 9-41, Bishop 1-1.
PASSING — Little River: Garrison 4-4-0, 73 yards; Grah.Stephens 3-3-0, 64 yards. Wichita County: Rietzke 15-20-1, 205 yards; Porter 1-1-0, 14 yards.
RECEIVING — Little River: Lafferty 4-73, Garrison 2-56, Young 1-8. Wichita County: Whalen 7-107, Chavez 4-63, Porter 1-1, Bishop 3-25, Gardner 2-10.
Missed field goals — none.