AURORA | Like the wagon trails of old, the Overland football team’s path to winning the Wagon Wheel was fraught with peril, wrong turns and a herd of Buffalo.
The Trailblazers overcame their own mental errors and an inspired early attack by former Centennial League rival Smoky Hill on their way to 50-15 Zero Week victory Saturday night at Stutler Bowl to take custody of the Wagon Wheel traveling trophy that made its debut in the series.
Senior quarterback Austin Conway tossed three touchdown passes and ran for another score, senior Kevin Prosser caught a pair of touchdown passes and Tyriq Jones got into the end zone twice for rushing scores for coach Seth Replogle’s Overland team, which posted the 23rd victory in 33 meetings all-time with Smoky Hill. The scores of each contest are embossed on the Wagon Wheel, a representation of the Overland and Smoky Hill wagon trails that ran through Aurora.
“I think it came out really nice; unfortunately Justin (former Smoky Hill coach Hoffman) wasn’t here for it, since it was his brainchild, but that being said, we’re happy to have it and start some tradition,” said Replogle, who beat the Buffs for the third straight season. “With two tradition-rich schools like ours, we needed a trophy. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
Hoffman was fired on the eve of the first practice of the season and a new staff headed by interim coach Preston Davis — Smoky Hill’s athletic director — took over. Even with the change, the Buffaloes played competitively into the third quarter before the game eventually got away from it.
In his first varsity start, quarterback Karson Avila tossed a touchdown passes to Dominique Carrasco and Hayden Blubaugh in the first half, but was intercepted twice in the second half when the Buffs were shut out.
Though he lost a fumble on Overland’s first offensive series, Conway led his team to a strong start. The Trailblazers’ defense got the ball back from Smoky Hill immediately on a fumble and the offense marched all the way into the Buffs’ red zone before settling for Marc Soto’s 34-yard field goal.
On a sprint out, Conway hit Brent Halliburton with a 36-yard TD strike following Alijah Halliburton’s interception and then pushed the lead to 22-0 with a pair of swing passes to Prosser, a bruising linebacker playing wide receiver for the first time, who reached the end zone both times.
Prosser was at Overland last season, but moved over to nearby Gateway after the football season and verbally committed to the University of Wyoming during that time, though he never played a snap for the Olys. He returned to the Trailblazers and fit back in seamlessly, with a brand new role on the offensive side of the football.
“I took my role; I wanted to play another position, but the coaches told me they wanted me to play this, so not selfish, I’m going to play the role the team wants me to play,” said Prosser, who scored from 19 and 21 yards out.
Smoky Hill finally got its offense going in the second quarter as Avila grew more comfortable. His first varsity touchdown pass came from 65 yards out when Carrasco leaped to catch his pass along the sideline, came down in bounds and raced into the end zone.
After the Buffs defense created a turnover of its own, Avila found the elusive Blubaugh in the middle of the field that he took 35 yards for a score.
But that was it for Smoky Hill offensively, as Overland tallied all 22 points in the second half. Behind particularly strong efforts from Prosser, Alijah Halliburton, Michael Burke and the hard-hitting Ahjon White — who is playing more of a defensive role this season after serving as a primary ballcarrier in 2013 — the Trailblazers’ defense kept the Buffs from advancing past midfield in the final two quarters and scored two points of its own on a safety following a bad snap to Avila in the end zone.
“We went into the lockerroom at halftime and talked about it; we had to fix our mistakes and not let their intensity overflow,” said Halliburton, who was credited with 12 tackles in addition to his early interception and also played well on special teams. “We shut that down early in the second half and that was the game right there.”
Meanwhile, Conway turned a broken play into a touchdown by racing 16 yards and diving across the goal line, while Jones rushed for a pair of touchdowns and Josh Wright — 127 yards rushing on 14 carries — also scored to make the final margin 35 points.
“It’s Zero Week, so we got sloppy and just did some stupid things and had tons of penalties and turnovers; it was just a mess,” Replogle said. “I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff that they could put that product on the field in eight days. Obviously they had a lot of penalties, too, but it is what it is.
“We got a win and we move on to next week. Best of all, nobody got hurt.”
Replogle said a place in the school hadn’t yet been picked out to display the Wagon Wheel.
Considering the short amount of time Davis and the veteran staff he cobbled together, he saw a lot of things from a young team that he liked. He also saw his Buffaloes flagged for 16 penalties — the same number as Overland drew — and identified plenty of other things to work on at practice.
“With it being Zero Week, there were some mental errors and things like snaps over the head and not wrapping up on defense, but the kids fought hard and we’re proud of them,” Davis said. “We have eight more games remaining in the season and this is a great opportunity for some some young kids. We had a lot of sophomores out there, so from this we can show them here are the proper gaps, here’s where they need to wrap up, all the things we talk about.
“It’s a great opportunity to teach these kids and move forward.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
OVERLAND 50, SMOKY HILL 15
Score by quarters:
Smoky Hill 0 15 0 0 — 15
Overland 16 12 6 16 — 50
Overland — Marc Soto 34 yard field goal, 8:39
Overland — Brent Halliburton 36 yard pass from Austin Conway (kick failed), 7:40
Overland — Kevin Prosser 19 yard pass from Conway (Soto kick), 4:13
Overland — Prosser 21 yard pass from Conway (kick failed), 8:32
Smoky Hill — Dominique Carrasco 65 yard pass from Karson Avila (Robert Woods pass from Avila), 6:45
Smoky Hill — Hayden Blubaugh 35 yard pass from Avila (Evan McCleary kick), 5:10
Overland — Conway 16 yard run (kick failed), 2:58
Overland — Tyriq Jones 5 yard run (run failed), 4;42
Overland — Safety (Smoky Hill recovered snap in end zone), 11:30
Overland — Josh Wright 7 yard run (Soto kick), 8:20
Overland — Jones 10 yard run (Soto kick), 2:38
Overland: Josh Wright 14-127, Austin Conway 19-74, Tyriq Jones 7-19, Jalen Boyd 1-2
Smoky Hill: Karson Avila 12-44, Hayden Blubaugh 8-27, Joshua Feaster 6-5
Overland: Conway 13-19, 221 yards, 3 touchdowns
Smoky Hill: Avila 12-30, 155 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
Overland: Brent Halliburton 2-86, Kevin Prosser 3-64, Sam Warren II 3-38, Boyd 3-22, Ahjon White 1-11
Smoky Hill: Dominique Carrasco 1-65, Wyliam Wyatt 4-40, Blubaugh 3-27, Maurice Wyatt 2-6, Robert Woods 1-5, Tahir Hopkins 1-2