Since 1970, the Battle for the Mayor’s Cup has always been known as one of the most unique rivalries in Kansas.
The 50th regular-season meeting did not disappoint.
Salina Central senior quarterback Jackson Kavanagh scrambled and found receiver EZ Jackson on a game-clinching drive, senior defensive back Gage Prester had two huge returns, and the Mustangs clipped the Salina South Cougars, 17-7, to claim the Mayor’s Cup for the second consecutive season. Central (1-2, 1-1 AVCTL-I) last recorded back-to-back wins in the regular season over South in the 2004-05 campaigns. South (0-3, 0-1) took down Central in the postseason in 2004. So, Central’s last true back-to-back wins over South came in the 2002 playoffs and the 2003 regular season.
The Mustangs threatened to score first, but the drive ended with a turnover. Facing a third and goal, Kavanagh dropped back to throw. His pass was deflected by South sophomore Kayson Dietz and was intercepted by sophomore linebacker Jarrett Pittenger at the Cougar three. On the ensuing drive, South punted the football to Prester, who returned the ball 51 yards to the Cougar 16. Kavanagh zipped a pass to senior tight end Quinton Stewart on the next play for a 16-yard score, putting Central on top 7-0 with 4:54 remaining in the first quarter.
Salina South settled for another punt as senior Kam Xaysongkam launched a 49-yard missile, pinning the Mustangs in their own five at the three. Central ultimately booted from its own end zone three plays later. South seized the opportunity with a punt block, setting up the Cougars at the 12-yard line of Central. Two plays later, junior quarterback Terran Galloway fired to the right side of the end zone, missing senior receiver Ty Garrett, but finding junior David Ollenberger in the back for a 13-yard touchdown, knotting up the score at 7-7 with 27 seconds to go in the first.
Both offenses would struggle in the second frame. Central drove to midfield and attempted a pass on a fake punt. Sophomore Jaxon Kolzow’s pass was intercepted by junior cornerback A.J. Johnson at the Cougar 44 with 52 seconds left in the half. Galloway found Ollenberger on the next play for 26 yards as the Cougars rushed to the 30-yard line.
South’s drive would then end as Galloway lobbed a pass that was picked by Prester at the 15 and returned 51 yards to Salina South’s 34 with under 30 seconds to go. Central pushed the ball inside the 10, but the Mustangs relied on the leg of Kray True as his 22-yard field goal as time expired broke the tie, Central leading 10-7 at the half.
Neither team could get in rhythm in the third. South and Central suffered from numerous penalties, allowing the defenses to shine. South’s defense forced its third turnover to open the final frame. Receiver Dakota Hogan reeled in a catch and fought to the 40 where he lost the ball and was scooped up by South’s Johnson and brought back for a touchdown. The score would be wiped off the board as a personal foul occurred on the return.
South couldn’t capitalize as the Cougars turned the ball over on downs with 9:17 to play in the game. Central answered with a strong march down the field, led by the rushing attack of senior tailback Cooper Chard. The Mustangs brought the ball to the nine of the Cougars, advanced the ball to the five and then backtracked to the 10 following miscommunication. Central gained five yards back, but the Mustangs faced a fourth a goal from the five.
Second-year head coach Mark Sandbo went for the final nail in the coffin. Kavanagh faced pressure from a couple defenders, rolled to the left, and found Jackson for the decisive touchdown.
Kavanagh was 13-of-29 passing for 148 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. After having 31 rushing yards in the first half, Chard carried the ball 16 times for 123 yards. Central racked up 265 yards of total offense.
For South, Galloway was 19-of-33 passing for 211 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Garrett finished with nine grabs for 99 yards. South had 223 yards, 12 coming on the ground.
Salina Central heads to Hutchinson next week. Catch the game on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.
Salina South stays in town to square off with Campus. Listen on Y93.7.