In a game that went down to the wire, Pratt High School football team put it all on the line in a tough loss to Sabetha for the 3A state football championship.
It was a heartbreaking day for Greenback football players and fans alike last Saturday as Pratt High School put their 2018 undefeated season on the line and came out one-point short in a 43-42 loss to Sabetha in the 3A state championship game.
“Before the game it was hard to know what to expect, mainly because we had no real way of knowing how good they really were,” said Pratt senior outside linebacker Kadence Riner. “I decided to prepare like we were playing Andale again and let God control the rest.”
The Sabetha Bluejays scored first on a 9-yard touchdown run at 6:49 in the first quarter to get the battle of unbeatens underway.
The Greenbacks seemed to start slow and by the end of the quarter were down 12-0. Pratt senior quarterback Travis Theis, who was still recovering from a sprained MCL from the previous game, uncharacteristicly fumbled the ball that led Sabetha to a 69-yard return touchdown. Sabetha went for a two-point conversion but a delay of game cost them five yards. They missed the kick for the second time in the game, and the quarter ended 0-12.
The Bluejays continued to score on a 2-yard touchdown halfway through the 2nd quarter. Their two-point conversion was stopped by Kadence Riner with the tackle.
“Our kids did a great job of sticking together through a tough start to the game,” said Pratt Head Coach Jamie Cruce. “Finding ourselves in a 18-0 hole to start the game was a true test of their resolve.”
The Greenbacks started their comeback with 3 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. They scored their first touchdown of the game with Theis rushing from 1-yard out. Daniel Sanchez made the kick to bring the score to 7-18 to end the first half.
“I noticed we started pulling together at half time, and it felt just like the Andale game. I could tell we were going to come back, figure them out, and give them more than they wanted,” said Riner.
Pratt kept that momentum, exiting the half-time locker room ready to take control of the game.
Theis connected with senior Caden Blankenship for a 40-yard touchdown and suddenly the Greenbacks were in the game. Sanchez was good for the kick to close the scoring gap 18-14.
Theis followed the touchdown pass with one of his own. The crowd went crazy when he had a 62-yard rushing touchdown to give Pratt the lead for the first time of the game. Sanchez was good for the kick and brought the score to 21-18.
Sabetha kicked a field goal to tie the game at 21 at the end of the 3rd quarter, prepard to battle the Greenbacks down to the wire for the title.
Theis started off the 4th quarter with an 8-yard rushing touchdown for Pratt to take the lead again.
Sabetha came right back with a 35-yard touchdown to tie the game for a second time.
With a minute left on the clock, Theis scored a 9-yard rushing touchdown. But again, Sabetha scored, this time with less than a minute left in the game to take it into overtime.
In overtime, Pratt started with the ball and Theis scored his 5th rushing touchdown of the game with a 1-yard carry. Sanchez made the kick and Pratt went ahead 42-35.
Sabetha marched the ball to the Greenbacks get 2-yard line. On 4th down they made a false start and get a 5-yard penalty. A Bluejay was left open, however, and Sabetha competed a 6-yard throw for a touchdown to bring them within 1 point, 42-41.
Sabetha set up for a two-point conversion and everyone was on the edge of their seat for the final play of the game. The crowds on both sides were going crazy. The Bluejays rush for the two-point conversion and the referee held up his arms to signal it was good.
Sabetha fans and players erupted into cheers as the Pratt bleachers fell silent. Players fell to their knees and their heads fell into their hands. They had left it all on the field, no question.
“It may have been the strongest shot of emotional pain that I’ve ever felt when the referee signaled that the 2-point conversion was good,” said Riner.
Even with the loss, the players, especially the seniors, expressed how special it was to have been a part of that team and taken it all the way to state.
“I was emotional but grateful to be a part of the team and to make others in our community proud,” said senior quarterback Travis Theis. “It was very sad to play my last game under coach Cruce and his staff and with my brothers.”
Pictures of the final play of the game, which gave Sabetha the win, later surfaced on Facebook, showing the possibility that the final play of the game may not have been across the goal line. Players and coaches agreed however, that it was best to focus on the heart and soul of the game and the spirit of competition.
“Although it was heartbreaking, I am beyond blessed to have played under coach Cruce, and to have grown up and played with those men who I will always call my brothers,” said Riner. “I will forever treasure the honor and privilege to bleed green.”
Fans and supporters of the Greenback team welcomed them proudly back into town Saturday evening with fire and emergency lights and sirens, all proud of the Greenbacks and their phenominal season.
“The 2018 season is one that our players can truly take pride in. We ended the season with a tremendous game and I couldn’t be more proud of our kids,” Cruce said.