HAYS — Everything seemed to come up in favor of Olpe Saturday afternoon as the Eagles won their second straight 1A state championship by routing Inman 35-6 at Lewis Field on the campus of Fort Hays State University.
Under clear skies and 64 degrees at game time, it was a matchup of unbeaten squads as the Eagles (13-0) sought to repeat as champions and Inman (12-1) hoped to capture its first state title.
But the Eagles have been blowing out teams throughout the season, and the trend continued in Hays. Olpe — which hasn’t lost since 2019 and only twice in the past four years — never appeared to be seriously threatened.
“We played our best football game today,” said Olpe head coach Chris Schmidt, who won his third state title at his alma mater Saturday. “The kids really took on a challenge this year, and week-by-week, they approached each game one at a time.”
The Eagles ran the ball at will, going for 304 yards on 47 attempts. Quarterback Damon Redeker and running back Derek Hoelting each totaled more than 100 yards.
Inman received the ball to start the game but could not find the end zone at all on the first quarter, despite having downfield opportunities to open receivers.
Olpe, meanwhile, marched right down the field on its first possession, deploying nine runs and one pass. Garret Cole ran it in from the 4-yard line to put the Eagles up 7-0 with 6:18 left in the first quarter.
Inman scored its only points of the afternoon when a 35-yard TD pass from Teuton quarterback Jace Doerksen to tight end Eli Brunk made it 7-6 with 8:40 to go in the second period.
It didn’t take long for Olpe to score in response. Redeker broke off a 53-yard run on an option keeper, taking it to Inman’s 5-yard line. With help from his line, Redeker pushed it into the end zone on a QB sneak and the Eagles went up 14-6 just a minute and 22 seconds later.
With under two minutes remaining in the half, a key block from Ted Skalsky sprung Cole loose off the left side and he took it to the house on a 26-yard run to make it 21-6 Eagles.
Inman answered with a 62-yard kickoff return by Doerksen to the Olpe 20-yard-line. The Teutons tried to pass the ball into the end zone but came up empty, squandering an opportunity to score and change the game’s momentum.
The Eagle defense was on-point all game, not giving Inman much. Schmidt said the defense played its assignments soundly.
“We did the little things well,” he said
Olpe opened the second half with a drive that consumed most of the third quarter but resulted in zero points. However, Inman couldn’t take advantage of its ensuing possession and was forced to punt.
The Eagles’ strategy was to control the clock, so a heavy dose of running was employed.
“Just an outstanding job done by our linemen upfront and then the backs just finishing our stuff off,” Schmidt said.
Olpe’s effective run game was a primary factor in the victory, but the weather played its role too. When Inman threw into the turbulent wind, it was noticeable. Though the Eagles’ long drive didn’t produce a score, it kept the Teutons passing attack from taking advantage of a tailwind.
Schmidt said that was a critical factor in the game.
On the Eagles’ next possession Cole fumbled the ball and Inman recovered at the Eagle 19-yard line. On first and goal, Doerksen hit Eli Brunk in the end zone, but Brunk bobbled it and the ball fell to the turf. It was another missed opportunity for Inman and that essentially closed the door on the Teutons.
The Eagles added superfluous rushing touchdowns from Cole and Hoelting in the fourth quarter and the Eagles won their second straight 1A state championship.
The state champions didn’t stick around Hays for long. It was party time in Olpe as a spirited celebration awaited the Eagles.
Schmidt said championships never get old, but the credit needs to be shared with the players, coaches and community.
“We don’t do this without everybody working together,” he said.
He added that it’s a special feeling to watch the kids celebrate after accomplishing their goal and to see the seniors walking off the field for the last time.
“You know that’s a bittersweet moment, but to finish it the right way and to finish it as state champions is just a great way to see it finish,” he said.