By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
For one second short of a half, the Liberal Redskins played the six-time defending state champions toe-to-toe.
But the precision machine of the Hutchinson Salthawks put the game out of reach in the first five minutes of the second half, and the Redskins were eliminated from playoff contention with a 41-13 loss to Hutchinson in front of a small crowd Friday at Redskin Field.
“We talked about playing the game one play at a time and challenged the guys to beat their guy one play at a time,” Liberal coach Wade Standley said. “Hutchinson is a good football team, and you’re not going to beat them every play.”
The Redskins impressed the tiny crowd early by forcing a Hutchinson fumble inside the Redskin 10 yard line in the first quarter and holding the Salthawk offense that has been averaging 58 points per game to just one touchdown in the opening period.
The Redskins countered with a 16-play drive that started at their own 25 yard line and reached the Hutchinson 6 yard line.
The bulk of the success came when Justin McPhail ran the Wildcat offense and gashed the Hutchinson defensive line for huge gains. McPhail had two runs of 10 yards and others for eight, three, seven and one on the drive.
But the Redskins switched back to the spread offense, and Slader McVey threw a pass to Jade Cathey in the end zone, but Cathey was called for offensive pass interference and the Redskins were backed up to the 22 yard line. The Redskins attempted a field goal, but it was blocked.
Five plays later, the Salthawks hit a 42 yard run for a 13-0 lead.
But the Redskins continued to have success against the Salthawk defense with another sustained drive that took four minutes and nine plays for the Redskins to reach the end zone with a 12-yard pass from McVey to Cathey.
But the 2:34 on the clock that the Redskins left the Salthaks was one second too many. Hutchinson ran 12 plays that ended with a touchdown pass with 0.1 seconds left to play in the half that gave the Salthawks a 21-6 halftime lead.
But the two-touchdown game quickly became four when Hutchinson scored on the first two possessions of the second half.
Liberal’s offensive success of the first half also disappeared. The first two possessions were three-and-outs, and the third ended with an interception that was as good as a punt.
With the 34-6 lead, Hutchinson started to make substitutions and tacked on one more score. Late in the fourth quarter, the Redskins put together one more sustained drive, going 73 yards on 14 plays and relying on McPhail on the Wildcat offense to punch the ball into the end zone for the 41-13 final.
“Justin did tremendous,” Standley said. “The offensive line was opening some holes against the six-time state champions.”
That line will be returning mostly intact next season, and while the Redskins didn’t get the win, they held the powerful Hutchinson offense to 18 points below their scoring average.
“We played with passion, and we played to win and have fun. We had some opporutnities and we took advantage of them, but Hutchinson is a good football team,” Standley
With the loss, Liberal (2-6) failed to qualify for the Class 5A playoffs for only the second time since 1991. The other miss came in the last year when only one team qualified from each district. Liberal has not lost two district games in one year since the 1980s.
The Redskins will close out the 2010 season Friday at Redskin Field by recognizing the seniors against Wichita West. The game kicks off at 7 p.m.
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