By RICK PETERSON
Barring a major upset, Washburn Rural's football team was going to win Friday night's Class 6A playoff opener over winless Wichita North by a sizeable margin.
But Rural coach Steve Buhler and his coaching staff found a way to make it a special night for ninety-eight Junior Blues, who all got to play at least a small part as Washburn Rural improved to 9-0 with a 48-7 romp at Bowen-Glaze Stadium.
"We suited up 98 and unless somebody was hiding, they got in the game,'' Buhler said.
Buhler said that was the highlight of the night for him.
"We gave our freshman, who finished up their season on Monday, the opportunity if they wanted to stay and practice with us and continue to get better every week,'' Buhler said. "And those kids were out here every day, so it's really hard to look them in the eye and ask them here to play and not give them oportunities when they're available, so it was important for us to get them all in the game.
"When we told them yesterday they were all suiting up, their eyes lit up. They were excited to have a chance to get in here, so it's a good night.''
Washburn Rural will be back at home next Friday for a second-round playoff matchup with Centennial League rival Junction City, which advanced with a 27-18 win over Wichita Heights.
Washburn Rural turned the ball on its first play from scrimmage Friday night, but after forcing a second straight punt by 0-9 Wichita North, Rural senior quarterback Branton DeWeese found senior Titan Osburn for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 8:20 left in the opening quarter (Wilson Miller kick).
That TD opened the floodgates, with DeWeese scoring on a 52-yard run, sophomore TJ Minikwu running for an 8-yard score, freshman Jadyn Baum scoring on a 1-yard run and DeWeese hitting senior Calvin Hayes for a 44-yard TD strike to give the Junior Blues a commanding 35-0 first-quarter advantage. Miller added extra points after all of the Rural TDs.
Washburn Rural made it a 42-0 cushion on a 2-yard run by junior Lafayette Thompson (Miller kick) with 10:12 left in the first half and the Junior Blues scored their final TD of the night on a 25-yard pass from sophomore quarterback John Hoytal to Osburn (kick failed).
A running clock was used throughout the second half due to Rural's 45-point spread.
Wichita North got on the scoreboard with 56 seconds left in the game on a 1-yard run from senior quarterback DJ Fowler (Emmanuel Roman kick).
North sophomore DeAnthony Jones rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries but North finished with just 38 total yards, all on the ground.
Washburn Rural finished with 363 total yards, including 247 on the ground as 11 Junior Blues carried the ball.
Buhler said he felt like his team accomplished what it needed to in Friday's game.
"I think so,'' Buhler said. "We were quick in the first half with our first group. I thought they played pretty clean. A few mistakes early, but those are things you clean up anyway.
"I think we got out of it healthy, which is big for us, and we got a bunch of young guys a lot of playing time.''
The playoff road gets tougher for Buhler's Junior Blues from here on out, starting with the matchup against Junction City, which Rural beat 28-7 earlier in the season.
"Now it gets real,'' Buhler said. "From here on out you're going to get everybody's best shot. Everybody's playing one and done and you've got a lot of really good programs that are ready to go at each other over the next three weeks.''
WASHBURN RURAL 48, WICHITA NORTH 7
Wichita North (0-9) 0 0 0 7 -- 7
Washburn Rural (9-0) 35 13 0 0 -- 48
Washburn Rural -- Osburn 25 pass from DeWeese (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- DeWeese 52 run (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- Minikwu 8 run (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- Baum 1 run (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- Hayes 44 pass from DeWeese (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- Thompson 2 run (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- Osburn 25 pass from Hoytal (kick failed)
Wichita North -- Fowler 1 run (Roman kick)
Rushing -- Wichita North: Jones 18-69, Alvarado 6-9, Fowler 7-minus)-23, Pena 1-(minus)-8, Mooneyham 2-(minus)-6, Sandidge 1-(minus)-3. Washburn Rural: DeWeese 4-68, Thompson 5-53, Ditch 9-42, Baum 7-41, Minikwu 5-34, Jordy Heim 1-11, Haas 3-5, Vantuyl 1-2, Prockish 1-(minus)-5, JC Heim 1-(minus)-3, Hoytal 1-(minus)-1.
Passing -- Wichita North: Fowler 0-10-2, 0 yards. Washburn Rural: DeWeese 3-4-0, 70; Hoytal 4-6-1, 46.
Receiving -- Washburn Rural: Osburn 2-50, Goehring 3-21, Hayes 1-44, Thompson 1-1.
Punting -- Wichita North: Roman 7-32.7.