When junior quarterback Gabe Welch was running the offense for the Arkansas City High School football team Friday night against Salina Central, but Bulldogs were moving the ball and scoring points.
Then disaster struck.
A seemingly innocent play on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter turned ghastly for the Bulldogs just as they had momentum on their side — in the game and the 2021 season.
The game became a lost cause. His season could be in doubt.
On fourth-and-goal from the Salina Central 1-yard line, Welch called his own number on a keeper off left guard.
One measly yard.
He never made it.
Welch was stuffed on the play, driven hard at the line of scrimmage. He was on the ground for several tense moments as fans at Bulldog Stadium sat quietly, possibly in stunned silence.
The crowd was that way for pretty much the rest of the game.
Welch had to be helped off the field, then was helped into the locker room as the visiting Mustangs took control of the ball — and the game.
The Mustangs were relentless and nearly flawless — and showed no mercy in running up the score to the tune of a 51-14 blowout.
About the only thing that went right for the Bulldogs (2-3, 1-2 AV-CTL D-II) was the kicking game. Ark City amassed 157 yards on seven solid kickoffs. Trouble is, to return kickoffs usually means the opposition just scored.
The Mustangs (3-2, 2-2) opened the game on an 11-play drive from midfield, capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Parker Kavanagh to Trevon Cole. The extra point missed, and the big-play Bulldogs needed just 1:25 to tie the game. Welch hit senior Lucas Barnes across the middle on a 43-yard pass play, setting up a 12-yard TD run by junior Wyatt Bahm. Cadon Clark’s extra point gave the Bulldogs the lead.
The Mustangs lost the ball on their first play from scrimmage when sophomore defensive back Blake Bucher recovered a fumble by tailback Kenyon McMillan at the Salina Central 26, giving Ark City excellent field position.
Welch marched the Bulldogs downfield while converting two third downs. But the drive stalled as the final seconds of the first quarter ticked off the clock.
“My hip just got caught up in a pile and it kind of just got pulled back,” Welch said of the injury after the game. “We’ll see what the doctor says, but that’s all I know right now.”
Clark, a starting wide receiver and defensive back, as well as the team’s kicker, was pressed into action at quarterback, leaving both the receiving corps as well as the secondary thin.
Aided by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Ark City, the Mustangs moved quickly down the field when McMillan ran untouched for a 39-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs set up for a 25-yard field goal on fourth-and-2 on their next possession, but faked the kick as Clark rolled out looking for a receiver. His pass fell incomplete and Salina Central needed 1:26 before Kavanagh hit Logan Losey at the ACHS 45-yard line on a pass that Losey took the rest of the way untouched for a 64-yard touchdown and an 18-7 lead.
The Mustangs scored on all three first-half possessions following the injury and held a 32-7 lead at halftime.
Salina Central continued to pour it on, scoring on the first three second-half possessions, then showed no mercy by recovering an onside kick with the game well at hand.
Ark City had just one first down, on a 22-yard pass from Clark to tight end Lance Blubaugh, after the injury until the 11-minute mark of the fourth quarter when Salina Central emptied the bench.
Bahm, who had perhaps his best game of the season, broke free on a 25-yard touchdown run with 8:50 left. He finished with 80 yards on seven carries. Barnes hauled in three passes for 52 yards.
McMillan finished with 162 yards and two scores on 10 totes, including a 60-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Kavanagh was 10-of-15 passing for 209 yards and two TDs, hitting Losey four times for 117 yards.
The Bulldogs remain home this Friday to face Goddard-Eisenhower. The Tigers (2-3, 2-2) shut out crosstown rival Goddard 30-0 on Friday.
The extent of Welch’s injury or availability was not clear at press time.
“I’ll be back,” Welch said. “I don’t know, we’ll see.”
Salina Central 51, Arkansas City 14
Salina Central 6 26 19 0 — 51
Arkansas City 7 0 0 7 — 14
SC — Trevon Cole 7 pass from Parker Kavanagh (kick failed), 7:37.
AC — Wyatt Bahm 12 run (Cadon Clark kick), 6:12.
SC — Kenyon McMillan 39 run (run failed), 9:51.
SC — Logan Losey 64 pass from Kavanagh (pass failed), 5:48.
SC — Micah Moore 1 run (Andin Price kick), 3:39.
SC — Kavanagh 3 run (Price kick), 0:47.9.
SC — Moore 19 run (Price kick), 8:42.
SC — McMillan 60 run (kick blocked), 5:33.
SC — Gunnar Gross 11 run (pass failed), 3:38.
AC — Bahm 25 run (Clark kick), 8:50.
First Downs 24 9
by Run 15 6
by Pass 7 3
by Penalty 2 0
3rd Down Conv 1-8 3-9
4th Down Conv 5-6 0-3
Rush Att-Yards 45-316 33-111
Passing Yards 221 79
Pass Comp-Att-Int 12-17-0 5-10-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 0-0 3-29
Int Ret-Yards 0 0
Fum Ret-Yards 1-5 0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Kickoffs-End Zone 9-0 3-0
Kick Ret-Yards 1-37 7-157
Punt Ret-Yards 2-5 0
Punts No-Avg Yards 1-21.0 3-34.3
Penalties-Yards 10-75 7-55
Time of Poss 27:23 20:37
RUSHING — Salina Central, Kenyon McMillan 10-162, Micah Moore 10-56, Gunnar Gross 14-55, Parker Kavanagh 7-40, Elijah Wilson 4-3. Arkansas City, Wyatt Bahm 7-80, Rhett Lathers 10-31, Gabe Welch 4-16, Cody Bruce 2-10, Max Mendez 1-3, Cadon Clark 6-0, team 3-(minus 29),
PASSING — Salina Central, Parker Kavanagh 10-15-0 209, Gunnar Gross 2-2-0 12. Arkansas City, Gabe Welch 3-3-0 54, Cadon Clark 2-7-0 25.
RECEIVING — Salina Central, Logan Losey 4-117, Hayden Vidricksen 2-64, Micah Moore 2-18, Elijah Wilson 2-12, Trevin Cole 1-7, David Brown 1-3. Arkansas City, Lucas Barnes 3-52, Lance Blubaugh 1-22, Cadon Clark 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.