The Knappa Loggers are undefeated, their offense averages over 46 points per contest, they have the state’s top-ranked defense, and 21 of their 22 starting positions are filled by all-league players — can anyone stop the Blue & Gold?
There are four teams still in the hunt for a Class 2A state football title, and that’s a fair question that three of those teams may be asking.
Obviously, the answer is no at this point, since the Loggers are 10-0.
Knappa won another state playoff game Saturday at CMH Field, 48-34 over Oakland in a 2A quarterfinal.
And now it’s on to the semifinals for the Loggers, for the fifth time in 10 years.
Knappa will face Monroe at 2 p.m. Saturday, at Central High School in Independence.
One way to beat the Loggers in the state playoffs — score something over 55 points, because that’s what the No. 3-ranked Loggers are averaging in the post-season. Not a realistic goal, as Oakland found out Saturday.
The Oakers came close, rallying from a 34-6 deficit to within 40-34.
But Knappa’s offensive machine was impossible to stop. Against the toughest competition they’ve seen, the Loggers still rolled up nearly 600 yards in total offense.
Quarterback Kaleb Miller threw for 414 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 105 yards and three scores. He has accounted for 840 yards offense and 11 touchdowns in the last two games.
The Loggers have scored 110 points in two weeks.
And Knappa receiver Reuben Cruz was like Mini-Mart in Saturday’s game — open all night — as the Logger senior caught nine passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
Miller admitted he was a little tired after Saturday’s shootout.
“Oh yeah. They’re a very physical team,” he said of the Oakers. “They’re not an 11-seed football team. They’re a top 10 team. They ran the ball pretty well — Andrew Harrington (37 carries, 222 yards) is pretty good.”
For Miller, “it was all offensive line and receivers. I just got lucky.”
Knappa coach Aaron Barendse said, “we came out and stuck to the game plan. The guys really bought in. We had to take (Harrington) out of the game, and we did a great job of it in the first half. We gave up a couple things in the second quarter to give them some cheap scores at the end.”
Two back-to-back plays midway through the second quarter typified the entire night.
Trailing 22-0, Oakland’s Dylan Baimbridge intercepted a pass and returned 34 yards for a touchdown, giving the Oakers a glimmer of hope.
But on the very next play from scrimmage, Miller found Cruz for a 72-yard score, pushing the lead back to 28-6.
And that would be the theme for the night — for every step the Oakers took, the Loggers took two. The game wasn’t as close as the final score, as Knappa failed on four two-point conversions, a potential eight points.
The bottom line — Knappa’s first half was better than Oakland’s second half.
On just the third play of the game, Cruz caught a 76-yard touchdown from Miller.
Cruz’s final TD reception covered 19 yards, on a wing and a prayer.
Facing a third-and-long with 1:05 left in the game, Miller avoided a sack, got spun around and threw the ball all in one motion, and Cruz came down with the rainbow pass at the goal line to give Knappa a 14-point lead.
“I just threw up a prayer, and he answered it,” Miller said.
Knappa held a seemingly safe 34-14 lead at the break.
But after Harrington scored on the Oakers’ opening drive of the second half, the Logger lead was trimmed to 34-22, and they found themselves in another tight spot, backed up to their own 2-yard line with a second-and-19.
But Miller hit Kanai Phillip for a 28-yard gain and a first down, and after a holding penalty, Miller scrambled and ran 85 yards for a touchdown.
The previous play, “I was actually running to call a timeout because the clock was running down, then Kaleb got the snap, and it worked out,” Barendse said. “He had a great game, and showed a lot of guts. These kids showed a lot of heart and never gave up, even though it wasn’t going our way in the second half. We just had some young kids make key plays at key moments.”
Freshman Devin Hoover had an interception, as did Mason Hoover and Phillip. Knappa recovered a fumble for a fourth takeaway.
The Logger offense racked up 596 yards in total offense — just a taste of what Monroe will have to stop in Saturday’s semifinal.
“I feel pretty confident,” Miller said. “We can score just as much as any team, so they’ll have to stop us to have a chance.”
Barendse added, “Reuben had some big runs, Mason was running the ball hard and our line was executing, so (the Oakers) really didn’t have an answer for our offense right out of the gate, and our defense was doing a great job. I couldn’t be prouder of our kids.”