By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural's football team completed a perfect 8-0 regular season Thursday night at Hummer Sports Park -- the only Class 6A team to accomplish that feat -- rolling to a 55-8 non-league win over Topeka West.
But now the real work begins for Steve Buhler's Junior Blues, who will kick off their quest for a state title next Friday night at Bowen-Glaze Stadium.
"The other (regular season) games you can do things not as well as you'd like to do and go fix them,'' Buhler said. "You do that now, when the playoffs start, you don't get that second chance so we say, 'It gets real.'
"We just have to be motivated in what we want to accomplish and this group has pretty high standards for itself.''
Washburn Rural, the top seed on the 6A West bracket, went into Thursday night's game as a heavy favorite over 1-7 Topeka West and took care of business from the outset, scoring the first eight times they touched the ball in the first half to build what would be the final 55-8 margin.
"They came out and locked it in and that's the sign of really good senior leadership,'' Buhler said. "This is really important to these guys and I'm pretty sure they made sure everybody understood that. They understand that we can't go backwards in the weeks before the playoffs.
"They've been through the playoffs and they know where we need to go and how we're going to get there, so they did a really good job of getting everybody ready to go before the game.''
After Topeka West scored its lone touchdown with 3:24 left in the half, Rural junior Lafayette Thompson returned the ensuing Charger kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to force a running clock throughout the second half.
Rural senior JC Heim picked off a Kenton Tisdale pass to halt West's game-opening drive and give the Junior Blues the ball at the West 22-yard-line.
Five plays later Rural sophomore Austin Ditch scored from a yard out to give the Junior Blues the lead for good (Wilson Miller kick) with 9:57 left in the opening quarter.
Rural senior quarterback Branton DeWeese made it 14-0 with an 8-yard run (Miller kick) and a Miller interception set up a 5-yard DeWeese TD run to make the score 21-0 with 5:14 still to go in the opening quarter.
The Junior Blues tacked on a 39-yard touchdown pass from DeWeese to junior Blake Recinos (conversion failed) and a 14-yard DeWeese TD strike to senior Titan Osburn (Miller kick) as Washburn Rural opened up a commanding 34-0 advantage at the end of the first.
After Ditch scored on his second 1-yard plunge of the night and Thompson scored on a 23-yard run, Topeka West got on the scoreboard with a 54-yard TD pass from Tisdale to junior Trey Barr.
Charger senior Kyrece Robinson added the 2-point conversion to cut West's deficit to 48-8 but it took Rural just a matter of seconds to answer, with Thompson's kickoff return pushing the Junior Blues' lead to 55-8.
There was no scoring in the second half although both teams threatened.
DeWeese went 8 of 11 passing for 158 yards in limited duty Thursday while Thompson carried the ball five times for a team-high 77 yards, in addition to his kickoff return.
West's Tisdale passed for 115 yards and the Charger TD while Robinson, normally a lineman, carried the ball 10 times for 53 yards, including a 34-yard run.
The state playoff pairings will be determined after the completion of Friday night's games. Topeka West will be on the road for a 5A playoff opener.
WASHBURN RURAL 55, TOPEKA WEST 8
Washburn Rural (8-0) 34 21 0 0 -- 55
Topeka West (1-7) 0 8 0 0 -- 8
Washburn Rural -- Ditch 1 run (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- DeWeese 8 run (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- DeWeese 3 run (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- Recinos 39 pass from DeWeese (conversion failed)
Washburn Rural -- Osburn 41 pass from DeWeese (Miller kick)
Washburn Rural -- Ditch 1 run (Pagel kick)
Washburn Rural -- Thompson 23 run (Pagel kick)
Topeka West -- Barr 54 pass from Tisdale (Robinson run)
Washburn Rural -- Thompson 90 kickoff return (Pagel kick)
Rushing -- Washburn Rural: Thompson 5-77, Bahm 6-60, DeWeese 6-50, Ditch 10-26, Riescheck 3-(minus)-6, Team 1-(minus)-5. Topeka West: Robinson 10-53, Kirtdoll 5-19, Tisdale 5-10, Rhoten Jr. 2-8, Berg 4-6, Fienhage 2-5, Thomas 1-5, Engel 1-4, Lindsay 1-2, Banks 1-(minus)-2, Barr 1-(minus)-1, Emerson 2-(minus)-1.
Passing -- Washburn Rural: DeWeese 8-11-0, 158 yards; Hoytal 1-4-0, 5. Topeka West: Tisdale 10-23-2, 115; Emerson 1-2-0, 5.
Receiving -- Washburn Rural: Osburn 2-51, Hayes 2-33, Thompson 2-28, Recinos 1-39, Roth 1-7, Goehring 1-5. Topeka West: Barr 3-56, Banks 3-22, Berg 3-24, Engel 1-13, NA 1-5. .
Punting -- Topeka West: Engel 3-29.7.