By RICK PETERSON
SALINA -- Rossville's first four state football championship wins all went down to the wire, with the Bulldawgs winning by a total of 21 points including one-point and overtime decisions.
But after opening up a commanding 35-6 lead on the way to a 35-12 romp past Beloit, Rossville was able to breathe a little easier in Saturday's Class 2A title game at Salina Stadium.
Than again, not so much according to coach Derick Hammes, who led Rossville to its second straight state undefeated crown (13-0) and its fifth overall title overall (four undefeated) as the Bulldawgs won their 26th consecutive game.
"I never felt comfortable until there were zeros,'' Hammes said. "That's the way it is, and some of that's respect for (the opponent) as well.''
Rossville's potent ground game was slowed much of the day by a staunch Beloit defense, but it didn't really matter much as the Bulldawgs cranked up their passing to the tune of 225 yards and three touchdowns while Rossville's defense came up with multiple big plays in the red zone to help hold the 9-4 Trojans at bay.
Rossville senior quarterback Torrey Horak completed 10 of 14 pass attempts for all 225 yards, including touchdown passes to junior Braiden Hensley, senior Tagen Kippes and senior Raphael Cooney to break the game open.
"That was a lot of fun,'' Horak said. "Credit to them, they shut down our running game a little bit and we had to find some things that worked and coach Hammes found a few little loopholes in their defense and we were able to exploit them a little bit and score a few touchdowns.''
"It was there,'' Hammes said of the passing attack. "They put eight in the box and we felt like that they paid a little more attention to the run game than our slot and the pass and we had that play in three different formations and we used two of the three and that was pretty important for us.''
Rossville never trailed after a six-play, 51-yard scoring drive on its first possession of the game, capped by a 4-yard TD run by Horak (Pedro Arantes kick) with 8:42 left in the opening quarter.
The Bulldawgs set up the TD with 18 and 25-yard passes from Horak to junior Kade Perine.
After forcing Beloit's second straight punt to open the game, Rossville drove 54 yards in just four plays for a 43-yard touchdown strike from Horak to Hensley (Arantes kick) with 6:32 left in the opening quarter to put the Bulldawgs in front, 14-0.
A 46-yard run from Beloit junior Logan Arasmith set up a 1-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Owen Eilert (run failed) at the 1:43 mark of the first and the Trojans recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Rossville 35, but the Bulldawgs took over on downs at their 17.
Later in the half Rossville came up with another stop at the Bulldawg 15 and RHS responded with a nine-play 85-yard scoring drive, with a 53-yard pass from Horak to senior Kaden Brown setting up a 3-yard TD from Corey Catron (Arantes kick) to put the Bulldawgs up 21-6 at the half.
"How (Beloit's) offense works is they try to waste as much as time as possible and hold the ball as long as possible and getting those stops down in the red zone really helped us out,'' said Catron, also a standout linebacker for the Bulldawgs.
Rossville put together another clutch drive to open the second half, moving 81 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 31-yard TD pass from Horak to Kippes with 8:50 left in the third (Arantes kick) to put the Bulldawgs in command, 28-6.
After recovering a Beloit fumble at its 26, Rossville had a 39-yard Catron touchdown wiped out by a penalty but the Bulldawgs went on to cap a 74-yard drive with 23-yard pass from Horak to Cooney with 4:09 left (Arantes kick) that put the game out of reach at 35-6.
Beloit got on the board at the 7:11 mark of the third quarter on a 1-yard plunge from Eilert (pass failed), but Rossville held the ball for the remainder of the game, getting to the Trojan 3-yard-line.
Catron finished 73 rushing yards, including 60 in the second half, while Brown added 42 yards on seven attempts and Horak 28 yards on nine carries in addition to his big passing day.
Beloit junior standout Benson Berndt missed the game with an injury, but Arasmith had 97 yards on 17 attempts and senior Tate Kadel added 63 yards on 19 attempts.
Rossville has now won five titles over the past eight seasons and Hammes said all the titles are special.
"They're special because the kids have been special and the guys on the coaching staff have been special,'' Hammes. "I'm just awfully proud of everybody involved in the program because there's a lot of work that goes into it and there's a lot of people who are responsible for the result.''
ROSSVILLE 35, BELOIT 12
Beloit (9-4) 6 0 0 6 -- 12
Rossville (13-0) 14 7 14 0 -- 35
Rossville -- Horak 4 run (Arantes kick)
Rossville -- Hensley 43 pass from Horak (Arantes kick)
Beloit -- O. Eilert 1 run (run failed)
Rossville -- Catron 3 run (Arantes kick)
Rossville -- Kippes 31 pass from Horak (Arantes kick)
Rossville -- Cooney 23 pass from Horak (Arantes kick)
Beloit -- O. Eilert 1 run (pass failed)
Rushing -- Beloit: Arasmith 17-97, Kadel 19-63, Walker 3-7, Burks 3-11, O. Eilert 5-(minus)-1. Rossville: Catron 20-73, Horak 9-28, Brown 7-42.
Passing -- Beloit: O. Eilert 2-8-0, 23 yards; Q. Eilert 1-1-0, 34. Rossville: Horak 10-14-0, 225.
Receiving -- Beloit: Waters 3-57. Rossville: Brown 2-60, Perine 2-43, Cooney 2-28, Hensley 1-43, Catron 1-15.
Punting -- Beloit: Waters 2-25.0. Rossville: Kippes 1-40.0.