PAOLA — The small town, locally raised Paola Panther football team had its undefeated season come to an end in the substate championship game against Bishop Miege, the greater Kansas City metropolitan powerhouse that has dominated every Class 4A team in its way and is on the verge of winning its sixth straight state championship.
Bishop Miege scored on its first seven possessions in a 48-14 victory against Paola before a packed house at Panther Stadium on Friday, Nov. 22.
The Stags led 41-0 at the half and extended the lead to 48-0 in the third quarter. Paola posted an 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter and a 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Paola had a large football family on Friday, with players from across the league wearing letterman jackets to the game to show their support for the Panthers in the showdown against the Stags.
Paola entered the game with a record of 11-0, winning a share of the Frontier League title with Tonganoxie.
Had it not been for Bishop Miege, the substate title game would have featured a showdown of undefeated league schools for the right to play for the state championship game this weekend at Hummer Sports Complex Football Stadium in Topeka.
The state title game for Tonganoxie came two weeks ago when the Chieftains ran into the Bishop Miege Stags in the sectional playoffs, falling by a final of 54-10. Tonganoxie was 10-0.
Bishop Miege, 10-2, suffered its two losses against St. James and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Stags have outscored their opponents by an average of 57-11 in the playoffs, posting 226 points while allowing 45 points in four postseason games.
It was the 11th appearance in the substate title game for the Paola Panthers, the fifth winningest program in the state.
To extend their thoughts and prayers to Strong Wright and his family, the Bishop Miege cheerleaders presented Paola with a “Strength for Strong” banner at halftime. During the presentation, the Bishop Miege student section raised their lighted cell phones in support. Strong Wright is a Paola seventh-grader fighting cancer.
Seniors playing in their final high school football game for the league, regional and sectional champion Paola Panther football team were Noah Bowden, Grayden Brenneman, Connor Hasz, Preston Martin, Cody Gray, Jeremy Sloan, Ryan Wokutch, Kaden Shay, Jordan Billesbach, Evan Phillips, Evan Peuser, Mikey Stribling, Javier Castillo, Clayton Essex, Trysten Williamson and Mason Talcot.
Paola got the ball first and, after gaining five yards on three plays, punted the ball to Bishop Miege.
The Stags scored on a 49-yard touchdown pass on their second play from scrimmage, taking a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers were held on downs on their second possession.
Bishop Miege marched 50 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown pass for a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
Paola quarterback Ryan Sloan completed a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Bo Robison to move the chains for the Panthers for the first time.
Wide out Evan Peuser made a one-handed try on a pass from Sloan but couldn’t quite come down with it. He was hit out of bounds on the far sideline and Bishop Miege was penalized for a personal foul on the late hit, giving Paola a first down.
Running back Evan Phillips broke loose for a first down at the Bishop Miege 14-yard line. Paola could not move the chains and had to settle for a field goal attempt that was short.
Bishop Meige took over at its own 20-yard line and drove 80 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 35-yard touchdown pass for a 19-0 lead.
Paola fumbled the ball inside its own 20-yard line. Bishop Miege recovered the ball. The Stags threw a touchdown pass to increase their lead to 27-0.
The Panthers ran 11 plays, picking up 43 yards, before being held on downs.
Bishop Miege scored on a 26-yard touchdown run to make it 34-0.
Paola ran three more plays before being held on downs and punting it back to Bishop Miege.
The Stags capped a 26-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a score of 41-0 at the intermission.
Bishop Miege opened the second half with a six-play drive, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown pass for a 48-0 lead.
Paola scored on both of its drives in the second half.
Running backs Connor Hasz, Fletcher Aude and Jovanni Blackie ran for first downs as Paola drove 80 yards in 11 plays. Aude ended the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
The Panther defense had a big stop on fourth down, getting the ball back for one more drive.
Paola took over at its own 25-yard line and scored seven plays later on a 4-yard touchdown run by Brock Pitzer.
Sloan completed three of 11 passes for 83 yards. Aude had 11 carries for 70 yards and one touchdown. Hasz and Blackie each had 43 yards rushing.
Evan Phillips, Peuser and Robison each had one reception.
Mikey Stribling led the Paola defense with five tackles. Jackson Earlywine and Clayton Essex each had four tackles. Noah Bowden and Damarius Bassett made three tackles each. Isaac Meyers, Kade Johnson, Javier Castillo, Pitzer and Peuser each had two tackles.