The top-ranked Stratton/Liberty Knighted Eagles have advanced to the Class A 6-man semifinals, as expected.

However, what it took to get there might not have been as expected by many observers.

The Knighted Eagles, 10-0, will host fourth-seed Cheyenne Wells, 9-1, Saturday at 1 p.m. in Stratton with the winner advancing to the championship game. Stratton/Liberty, though, had to overcome a 10-point second-half deficit to escape Otis with a 40-32 quarterfinal win last Saturday afternoon.

In fact, it was a fairly competitive quarterfinal round as seventh-seed Kit Carson knocked off second-seed Prairie, 32-26, and third-seed Peetz held off 11th-seed Fleming, 40-28. Cheyenne Well’s 45-12 win over fifth-seed North Park was the only lopsided final.

Peetz will host Kit Carson at 2 p.m. Saturday in the other semifinal.

Elton Yarger sprints down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown run, last Saturday in Otis. (Pioneer Photo)

Stratton/Liberty had rolled past Otis 63-6 last month at Liberty. However, the Bulldogs were having none of that this time, pushing the top-ranked team to the very end.

The Knighted Eagles struck first, capping a scoring drive with Elton Yarger’s short touchdown run, and Jaret Lichty’s 2-point kick made it 8-0 with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first quarter.

However, the Bulldogs immediately responded as Tate Goble returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. The PAT was blocked, leaving Stratton/Liberty ahead 8-6.

The game continued to be a defensive battle in the second quarter. After a promising Otis drive stalled deep in Stratton/Liberty territory, the Bulldogs’ Daniel Norman intercepted a Knighted Eagles pass and returned it about 20 yards for a touchdown and a 12-6 Otis lead with 43 seconds left in the half.

Stratton/Liberty had a chance to respond, but lost a fumble at the Otis 29. Bryce Miracle then broke through for a 51-yard touchdown run for an 18-8 lead with 19 seconds left.

The first half fun was not over yet, though, as Jacob McCormick returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bulldogs’ 5-yard line. There were 3 seconds left in the half, and a run up the middle was stopped one-yard short, leaving the score 18-8 heading into the locker room.

The second half began with Otis’ Christian Nation intercepting a Knighted Eagles pass at the Otis 20. However, the Knighted Eagles’ defense forced a punt. Yarger then broke off a 45-yard touchdown run on the next play, and Lichty’s 2-point kicked pulled the Knighted Eagles to within two, 18-16.

Otis came right back with a scoring drive of its own. The Bulldogs drove to the 5-yard line, but went backwards and eventually found themselves facing a fourth-and-goal at the 25. Miracle connected with Tyler Thorn for a touchdown, and Goble kicked the 2-point conversion to increase Otis’ lead to 26-16 with 42 seconds left in the third.

Bryce Miracle wards off a tackle attempt by Ethan Richmond during their 6-man quarterfinal, last Saturday in Otis. (Pioneer Photo)

The Knighted Eagles answered right back again, with Yarger this time hitting paydirt on a 55-yard run. Lichty’s PAT kick pulled them to within two, 26-24, heading into the fourth.

J. Lichty then returned an Otis punt 37 yards to the Bulldogs’ 29 early in the fourth. The Knighted Eagles faced a fourth-and-five at the 19 when McCormick broke through with a TD run along the Otis sideline. Lichty kicked the PAT as Stratton/Liberty took its first lead since the second quarter, 32-26.

The Knighted Eagles added to their lead on their next possession when McCormick scored on a 13-yard run. Lichty’s 2-point kick made it 40-26 with 4:50 left.

However, the Bulldogs were not done yet. After the teams traded fumbles, Miracle threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Nation. The PAT was bl

Stratton/Liberty’s Jacob McCormick finds some running room up the middle thanks to the blocking of Tyson Lichty (left) and Jaret Lichty (33) during last Saturday’s Class A 6-man quarterfinal game in Otis. (Pioneer Photo)

ocked, but the Bulldogs were within eight, 40-32, with 2:11 left.

They would never get a chance to try to tie the game as the Knighted Eagles were able to run out the clock, escaping Otis with the win.

Otis finished with an 8-2 record, both losses coming against Stratton/Liberty.

The Knighted Eagles had 294 total yards. All of it came on the ground, and all of it by two players — McCormick rushing for 173 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, and Yarger 121 yards and three touchdowns on eight attempts, an average of 15.1 yards per run. J. Lichty was 5-for-5 on 2-point kicks.

Defensively, Levi Shean was in on 14 total tackles, Ethan Richmond nine, Phillip Pickard nine, Yarger seven, Tyson Lichty six, J. Lichty four, Owen Clapper two and Trevor Frank two. Pickard had three tackles for losses, and T. Lichty one. Pickard had one interception, and Shean recovered a fumble.

Tate Goble stiff arms Elton Yarger during their 6-man quarterfinal last Saturday in Otis. (Pioneer Photo)

For Otis, Miracle completed 12 of 26 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns, carried the ball 16 times for 134 yards and one touchdown and made 17 tackles. Thorn completed one pass for six yards, caught two passes for 31 yards and one touchdown and made nine tackles. Ty Hunt completed three of seven passes for 26 yards and one touchdown, carried the ball one time for seven yards, caught two passes for nine yards. Goble completed one pass for 13 yards, caught three passes for 22 yards and made nine tackles. Landsten Schaffert caught three passes for nine yards and made nine tackles. Isaac Wells caught two passes for 11 yards and made four tackles. Norman made seven tackles and made one interception for 16 yards and one touchdown. Nation caught five passes for 50 yards and one touchdown and made one interception for 12 yards and one touchdown. Alex Carrick made four tackles. Keylan Dracon made three tackles.

Otis finished the season with an 8-2 record, both losses coming to the Knighted Eagles.