Neither Washburn Rural nor Seaman strung together long offensive possessions. The difference is the Blues didn’t need to.
Three one-play drives following turnovers in the first half gave Rural a commanding lead in the teams’ regular-season finale. A total of seven takeaways, including three Joey Blakesley interceptions, set the Blues up for a 35-10 road win Friday.
The Vikings (2-6), who were scoreless until the game’s final five minutes, fumbled on their second play, and Michael McCartney recovered inside the red zone. A play later, Jaylen Carter scored on a 19-yard run for Rural (3-5).
“The defense did an especially good job of making life easy for the offense,” said Rural coach Steve Buhler. “The defense was really aggressive in what they were doing. We challenged them all week to come out and compete every down, and they did a good job of putting the pedal to the metal.”
On Rural’s only extended scoring drive, Cooper Carlgren threw for four first downs, capped off by a conversion on third-and-16 that went 22 yards for a touchdown to Blakesley to make it 14-0.
The second quarter presented more short scoring opportunities for the Blues. A bad snap over Seaman quarterback Reid Cowan’s head was knocked back to the 3 and recovered by Connor Conklin. Once again, Carter needed just one run to score.
Brayden Vawter answered with a recovery of a strip sack for Seaman, but the Vikings gave it back two plays later. After three Rural fumble recoveries, Blakesley took control with his three picks.
“It was a super effort from him,” Buhler said. “He’s a senior who’s been playing for us since he was a sophomore. It’s really fun to watch him have success with interceptions because he’s one of our hardest workers on the team.”
Not content with a 21-point lead, Rural used its third timeout in the final 30 seconds of the half, despite Seaman’s offense being on the field. The decision paid off, as Cowan threw an interception that Blakesley returned to the 4 with 11 seconds left.
For the third time, it took a single play, a Carlgren pass to Sharp in the end zone, for Rural to score and go ahead 28-0 six seconds before halftime.
Blakesley ended Seaman’s first two drives of the second half with interceptions, returning the second 66 yards for a touchdown.
“Coach (Ryan) Smith and the defensive staff work on turnover drills every week,” Buhler said after Friday’s seven-takeaway performance. “Last year, we started doing a couple gimmicks with the kids they really enjoy when they get turnovers. We had a good year with it last year, and this year it’s carried over.”
The 35-point lead held until the final 4:27, when Seaman followed a 63-yard pass from Vawter to Aidan Polter with a short field goal that prevented a shutout.
Vawter then added a touchdown pass to Ryan McNeely with 2:37 left that gave Seaman a 10-0 fourth-quarter advantage after being blown out the first three periods.
“Going into Week 9, it doesn’t really matter who you play as long as you’re playing well,” Buhler said of next week’s postseason opener. “We started out the season playing slow, but the kids are on the right trajectory right now and excited to be playing football another week.”
WASHBURN RURAL 35, SEAMAN 10
WR – Carter 19 run (Frederickson kick)
WR – Blakesley 22 from Carlgren (Boyd kick)
WR – Carter 3 run (Frederickson kick)
WR – Sharpe 4 from Carlgren (Boyd kick)
WR – Blakesley 66 interception return (Frederickson kick)
Seaman – Prengel 24 field goal
Seaman – McNeely 26 from Vawter (Prengel kick)
RUSHING – Washburn Rural: Carter 10-56, Carlgren 13-44, Fager 7-28, Williams 1-2. Seaman: Zeferjahn 7-16, Murray 4-5, Vawter 5-6, Cowen 1-0.
PASSING – Washburn Rural: Carlgren 9-16-2, 104 yards. Seaman: Cowan 6-17-0, 55; Vawter 4-6-1, 110.
RECEIVING – Washburn Rural: Carter 4-33, Sharp 3-29, Porter 1-20, Blakesley 1-22. Seaman: Foster 2-13, Zahn 3-30, Murray 1-18, McNeely 2-34, Zeferjahn 1-7, Polter 1-63.