There would be no first-round frustration for the Concordia Panthers this time around.
Concordia had been beaten in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs in each of the past four years, but halted that streak in impressive fashion by thumping North Central Kansas League rival Abilene 50-8 in the bi-district game Tuesday night at Harold M. Clark Stadium.
The Panthers scored on seven of their first eight offensive possessions, racked up 420 yards of offense and forced four Abilene turnovers on its way to beating the Cowboys for the second time this season.
Concordia, the District 16 champion, advances to the regional game, and will play at Buhler at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Buhler went on the road to beat Ulysses 28-7 on Tuesday.
“It is better than losing,” Concordia coach Tim Lambert said, “It is exciting. We have an opportunity to play more football. There are all kinds of good things.”
The Panthers have now won seven straight games, including a 44-21 regular season victory over Abilene.
Looking to avenge that loss, the Cowboys turned the ball over on the first offensive possession of the game when quarterback Andy Wilson fumbled, and Concordia recovered on its own 49-yard line.
A 15-yard run by Drake Hake started a nine-play Concordia drive that Trevor Nordell capped off with a 9-yard touchdown run with 4:53 to play in the first quarter.
Nick Thomas ran in the two-point conversion, and the Panthers led 8-0.
The two teams would exchange punts, and Concordia stopped Abilene on a fourth down and one to get the ball back on its own 45-yard line.
Concordia went 55 yards in six plays and Nordell scored his second touchdown on a 12-yard run with 9:54 to play in the first half.
Nordell, who finished with 100 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns, ran in the conversion to put the Panthers up 16-0.
Concordia got the ball back when Gabe Bergmann recovered a Dathan Parks fumble at the Abilene 23.
Nathan Gieber completed his only pass of the game to Hake for 11 yards.
Thomas scored three plays later on a 1-yard run.
Hake ran in the conversion to extend the lead to 24-0.
With Abilene starting its next possession on its own 15-yard line, Wilson completed five straight passes to move the Cowboys to the Concordia six.
Following an incomplete pass, Wilson tried to find Zach Barbieri in the end zone, but Alan Garcia went up high for an interception.
“They had some success in the short passing game. When you get down inside the red zone the area we have to cover shrinks. I thought the kids did a good job of bending and then making some plays,” Lambert said.
Concordia put together a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, and Nordell got into the end zone for the third time on an 8-yard run with 1:42 left in the first half.
The conversion attempt failed, but the Panthers led 30-0.
Abilene attempted an onsides kick to start the second half, but Concordia recovered on its own 48-yard line.
Hake got loose on first down, and raced 52 yards for a touchdown, and Concordia led 36-0.
Concordia forced an Abilene punt and got the ball back on the Cowboy 49.
A 25-yard touchdown run by Hake, and the extra point by Logan Higbee made it a 43-0 game.
Hake rushed for 182 yards on just 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. The sophomore topped the 1,000 yard mark for the season, and now has 1,088 yards.
“At any point in time we have three good backs in the game. I am just calling plays which I think are going to be successful. I have confidence in all of our runningbacks,” Lambert said.
Abilene would move from its own 20-yard line to the Concordia eight, but a Wilson pass was tipped in the end zone and intercepted by Brentin Hake.
Concordia went 80 yards in 10 plays, and Joshua Pounds scored on a 40-yard run with 8:38 to play in the game.
Higbee again tacked on the extra point, and it was 50-0.
Abilene would get on the scoreboard on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Keil Kelly with 1:08 left.
Concordia then ran out the clock, and advanced to the second round.
The Panthers piled up 408 yards rushing.
“Any time you rush for over 300 yards in a game you have done a pretty good job,” Lambert said.
Abilene had 317 yards of total offense.
Wilson completed 21 of 32 passes for 194 yards.
Kelly caught nine passes for 82 yards.