CLAY CENTER — Dominant from the opening drive, the Concordia Panthers steamrolled the Clay Center Tigers 50-6 Thursday night to win a third consecutive Class 4A district championship.
Concordia set the early tone with a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive on the offensive possession of the game.
The Panthers would score the first five times they had the ball in opening up a 36-0 halftime lead, and were never threatened in the second half on their way to capturing the District 16 title.
Concordia rolled up 405 yards of total offense, and limited Clay Center to just 127.
The Panthers also forced three turnovers.
“We played as well as we have all year,” Concordia coach Tim Lambert said, “I think we were more focused, for whatever reason. The first two games in the district we didn’t come out with this kind of focus and energy, and I don’t know why. We need to play like we did against Clay, because if we don’t we are not a very good football team.”
Concordia (7-2) will host Abilene (2-7) in the opening round of the 4A playoffs at 7:00 Tuesday night.
Abilene defeated Smoky Valley 27-15 on Thursday night, and finished second in District 15 behind McPherson.
Clay Center, finished second in District 16, travels to McPherson on Tuesday.
Concordia and Clay Center were each 6-2 overall and 2-0 in district play heading to the regular season showdown.
The Panthers took control by going 60 yards for a score.
Sophomore Nick Thomas capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run with 8:18 to play in the first quarter.
Trevor Nordell ran in the two-point conversion to put Concordia up 8-0.
Clay Center picked up one first down on its first possession, but a bad snap that sailed over the head of quarterback Carson cost the Tigers 18 yards.
The Tigers would punt, and Concordia got the ball back on its own 20-yard line.
Nordell broke a 39-yard run, and Thomas followed it up with a 41-yard touchdown run.
Drake Hake ran in the conversion to extend Concordia’s lead to 16-0.
Thomas carried the ball 16 times for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
Nordell finished with 118 yards on 16 times.
Concordia, which finished up 4-1 in North Central Kansas League play, got the ball back when Gabe Bergmann recovered a Danny Ellis fumble at the Panther 34-yard line.
A 38-yard run by Joshua Pounds moved the ball deep into Clay Center territory.
Shea Crum finished off a nine-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:12 gone by in the second quarter.
The conversion attempt failed, but Concordia led 22-0.
Clay Center turned the ball over again when Alan Garcia intercepted a Ryan Blake pass intended for Carson and returned it to the Tiger 33-yard line.
Concordia scored six plays later on a 5-yard run by Nordell.
Pounds ran in the conversion, and the Panthers led 30-0.
“They helped us out a little bit,” Lambert said of the Clay Center turnovers.
The Panthers forced a Clay Center punt and got the ball back on their own 36-yard line.
Hake, who had 87 yards on 12 carries, scored seven plays later on a 10-yard run to make it a 36-0 game.
“I think we were in a good frame of mind when the game started and that is how it needs to be every game,” Lambert said.
Concordia continued the onslaught in the second half.
Forcing a Clay Center punt, the Panthers went 58 yards in 11 plays, and Thomas scored on a 4-yard run.
Hake ran in the conversion to up the lead to 44-0.
Pounds intercepted a Carson pass, and Concordia went 49 yards in eight plays.
Crum scored on a 2-yard run, and it was 50-0.
Clay Center got on the board when Ellis took a short pass from Blake, and went 44 yards for a touchdown with 8:10 to play that made it 50-6.
Concordia picked up all of its 405 yards on the ground.
The Panthers gave up just 43 yards rushing and 84 passing.
Carson, who had rushed for over 900 yards and thrown for over 500, was limited to 13 yards rushing on seven carries, and completed three of eight passes for 26 yards.
Ellis led the Tigers with 45 yards rushing.
“I think our defense played really well,” Lambert said.
Concordia will now play League rival Abilene in the first round of the playoffs.
The Panthers beat the Cowboys 44-21 the first time the two teams met this season.
“We know that Abilene has some talent. We know that if we are not at our best they can beat us. We have to make sure we are at our best,” Lambert said.