LINDSBORG — For parts of the game, Smoky Valley High School imposed its will on Hesston.
The Vikings had 426 total yards compared to just 214 for the Swathers. Smoky Valley never trailed, either.
But five Smoky Valley turnovers turned a potential blowout into a 22-14 squeaker.
The bottom line, however, is Smoky Valley is 10-0 and into the quarterfinals of the Class 3A State Playoffs. The Vikings will host fellow undefeated Pratt next weekend in what could be the biggest game of football in school history.
Through all of the success this team has accomplished so far, head coach Tim Lambert is staying focused and in the moment.
“I haven’t really stopped and thought about it,” Lambert said. “Of course, it’s been good. But it’s also been fast. We just keep fighting and finding ways to win, even when you turn the ball over five times.”
After a scoreless first quarter that saw Smoky Valley drive into Hesston territory only to fumble the ball away, the Vikings struck first five seconds into the second quarter.
But the Swathers responded by going the length of the field in under two minutes for a touchdown. The Vikings held an 8-6 lead for most of the second quarter, but with 47 seconds left Cort Elliott rushed for a one-yard score on third and goal. Timmy Lambert made it a two-score game on a two-point conversion run.
The 10-point lead came in handy when the Swathers outscored Smoky Valley 8-0 in the third quarter. Again, the Vikings had their chances, but turnovers were a plague all night long.
The Swathers would never get closer than 16-14 when Raleigh Wilson concluded the scoring at the 9:11 mark with a four-yard touchdown run. Hesston denied the two-point try to keep it a one-score game the final nine minutes.
Defensively, the Vikings were able to overcome five turnovers from the offense, and held a spread-happy offense in check for the second consecutive week.
“I thought we did a good job of containing their offense,” Lambert said, “we didn’t give up a big play. [Hesston] had some opportunities with our turnovers, and we were just able to make some plays defensively.”
Elliott and Lambert had a combined 63 carries. The dynamic duo ran tough and physical all night, as both running backs left the game with injury only to return and continue dominating.
Elliott had 231 yards, while Lambert tallied 154.
Since 2016, Smoky Valley is 17-1 at home, including 4-1 in the playoffs. Pratt will pose the biggest threat the Vikings have seen all season, but Lambert knows the team and the community will be ready.
“I think we’ll be excited; I think we’ll show up,” Lambert said. “They have a great coach and a history of success these last three or four years.”
If the Vikings defeat Pratt, they would face the winner of Andale (10-0) and Scott City (10-0).