Huskies defeat Derby, 41-21, to win first-ever state championship in school history

November 27, 2021

Huskies dominate on both sides of the ball, defeat Derby, 41-21, to win 6A State Championship

The varsity football team defeated the Derby Panthers, 41-21, in the KSHSAA 6A state championship, Nov. 27, in Emporia, Kan.

Mack Smith

With Blue Valley Northwest football’s first ever state championship trophy in his hands, head coach Clint Rider became emotional as he talked to his team.

“Guys, I cannot thank you enough,” Rider said. “To all of our coaches, our community and our players thank you so much for making this the best day of my life.”

Rider took over the Northwest football program five years ago and struggled his first three seasons, going 2-7, 0-9 and 2-7. Now, the Huskies are state champions after defeating Derby, 41-21.

The Huskies were led on offense by senior quarterback Mikey Pauley, who ran for four touchdowns and threw for another. The Huskies’ defense shut out the Panthers in the first half and didn’t allow a completion in the game.

“Our mentality today was to start out their offense and that’s what we did. They had a lot of the hype going into the week. The media was talking about how we would be lucky to stop them two times all game, but we stopped them five times in the first half and that says a lot,” senior defensive back Zach Yates said.

After a dominant start to the game, Northwest found themselves up 28-0 going into halftime, scoring a touchdown on every offensive possession.

“We knew we were going up against the best and most athletic defense we’ve played against all season, so we were locked in from last Saturday morning all the way up until now. We spent a lot of time preparing for this and we knew we had to do whatever we had to win this game, and I feel like we did a great job with that today,” junior running back Grant Stubblefield said.

After forcing a three and out, Derby scored their first touchdown of the game on a 39-yard rush with 6:26 remaining in the third quarter. However, the Huskies responded as Pauley capped off a long drive with his fourth rushing touchdown of the game to give the Huskies a 35-7 lead. Derby added another touchdown with 10:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Northwest responded yet again as Stubblefield ran one in from 14 yards out, giving the Huskies a 41-14 lead and sealing the victory.

Derby scored another touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the game, but it was too little too late as the Huskies would go on to win, 41-21.

“Putting up a banner in the gym is really special. We’ve been waiting for this moment for our whole time at Northwest. We knew we could do it and we came out today and proved it,” Pauley said.

Similar to Pauley, Rider said he has pictured coaching a team to a state championship for a long time.

“This means the world to me. I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was a little kid. As a player, I never got to experience this and as a coach, we fell one-yard short at the last school I was at. It’s a culmination of the efforts of so many people who have helped build this program up and I’m so grateful for those people and what they’ve poured into this program,” Rider said.

Winning the first-ever state championship in school history was a special moment, Stubblefield said.

“It’s crazy making history, knowing that we’re going to be up on a banner forever. I don’t think any other team is more deserving because we’ve been in that weight room since seventh and eighth grade together talking about winning a state championship,” Stubblefield said. “We’re finally here and we finally executed. It’s a big weight off of our shoulders because we knew we were going to get here and we knew we needed to finish it off and we did it.”

For Yates, winning a state championship means something extra special. Yates’ mom passed away last April and Yates said it felt good to win it for her. 

“It means the world. [My mom] was my number one supporter and when she passed away it was really hard on me. This is what she would’ve wanted to see and it just makes this all even more special to be able to do it for her,” Yates said.

A number of players in the senior class have been playing together since kindergarten. Pauley said it has been an amazing journey and they’ve come a long way to win a state championship.

“Some of us have been playing together since kindergarten and others joined in middle school or freshman year. What’s so special about our senior class is that everyone has stayed together, did their job and filled positions they needed to. We’ve been a very special group for Northwest and I’ve enjoyed every part of it,” Pauley said.

Fourth Quarter Update

Starting the fourth quarter with a 2nd & 6 on their own 13 yard line, the Huskies were looking to put together a scoring drive that could seal the game. However, Derby forced a strip sack on Pauley and took over at the Huskies’ 8 yard line. Edwards punched it on the next play to shorten the Huskies lead to 35-14.

The Panthers attempted an onside kick, but the Huskies managed to recover. Northwest put together a six-minute drive which resulted in a 14-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Grant Stubblefield. The PAT was no good, but the Huskies extended their lead to 41-14.

The Panthers drove the length of the field, scoring a touchdown on a 10-yard rush, but it was too little too late as Northwest led 41-21 with 1:50 remaining in the game.

Third Quarter Update

The Huskies got the ball to start the second half, but the offense did not produce as it did in the first half. Mishandled snaps on first and third down forced the Huskies to punt on fourth and long.

Derby started with the ball at Northwest’s 41 yard line and made quick work of the drive. The Panthers converted on a 4th & 1 before Derby quarterback Mercer Thatcher rattled off a 39-yard rush for a touchdown to make the score, 28-7, Huskies.

Northwest responded to the Panthers’ score on their next drive with a touchdown of their own. Pauley led a long drive that he capped off with a 19-yard rushing touchdown.

The Panthers offense was firing on their next possession as they got to the Huskies’ 8 yard line. However, Northwest’s defense stayed strong and forced an incompletion on a trick play on fourth down. The Huskies had one play before time expired in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter leading Derby, 35-7.

Second Quarter Update

The Huskies started the second quarter hot with a 19-yard touchdown rush from Pauley on the first play of the quarter, giving Northwest a 14-0 lead over Derby.

The Panthers took over on their own 20 yard line but quickly faced a 1st & 20 after two penalties. However, Edwards broke off two long runs for the Panthers to cross midfield. The Huskies were able to force a turnover on downs and got the ball back on their own 30 yard line.

Pauley orchestrated a quick drive, which resulted in the Huskies’ third touchdown of the game. On the first play of the drive, Pauley found junior running back Grant Stubblefield for a 21-yard reception. Pauley followed that up with an 11-yard rush. On 3rd & 8 from Derby’s 35 yard line, the Panthers committed a pass interference which moved the chains for Northwest. On the next play senior receiver Nick Cusick brought in a 20-yard pass from Pauley for a touchdown, extending the lead to 21-0.

On Derby’s next drive, senior Gabe Peterson sacked the Panthers quarterback on third down, forcing Derby to punt. The Huskies offense kept on rolling and capped off their next drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown from Pauley. 

With 2:50 remaining in the half, Derby took over at their own 20 yard line. They advanced past midfield but a sack by junior Aidan Behymer on second down led to the Panthers having to punt yet again. The Huskies ran one play, before going into halftime with a 28-0 lead.

First Quarter Update

Derby won the coin toss and elected to receive. After taking the opening kickoff to their own 35 yard line, the Panthers were stuffed by junior Aidan Behymer for negative three yards on a rush on their first play of the game. On third down of the same drive, Derby running back Dylan Edwards dropped a long pass forcing fourth down.

The Huskies took over on their own 20 yard line with 10:16 remaining in the first quarter after a touchback on the Panthers’ punt. The Huskies responded with a six-minute drive resulting in a touchdown. On the drive, senior quarterback Mikey Pauley connected with senior wide receiver Max Muehlberger for two crucial third down receptions that moved the chains. Pauley scored the touchdown on a 4-yard rush and Biancalana converted the PAT to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead over the Panthers.

Derby took the opening kickoff to their own 36-yard line and quickly passed midfield on a pair of rushes. However, Northwest got a couple of stops and forced a turnover on downs, taking back over at their 45 yard line.

The Huskies marched down the field and the quarter ended with the Huskies facing a second and ten yards on Derby’s 19 yard line.

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