TIPTON — There’s no doubt Sacred Heart has made strides on the gridiron, as evidenced by last week’s 35-0 win over Lincoln that earned the program its first Class 1 playoff nod.
But on Thursday night, perennial powerhouse Tipton served a heaping slice of humble pie to the Gremlins, who still have a ways to go before competing among the state’s best.
Dallas Peoples ran for 279 yards and five touchdowns and the fourth-ranked Cardinals wrapped up the Class 1, District 5 championship with a 66-6 running-clock win over the Gremlins.
“This is very humbling,” Sacred Heart coach Ben Lyles said. “I was asked all week how we’d do against Tipton and I told them this would be a plant-your-stake-in-the-ground game and obviously we’re a ways away from where we want to be. We haven’t made leaps and we have a lot of small steps before we take that leap.”
Along with notching their 11th consecutive win at home, 59th-straight regular-season win and sixth-straight district title, the Cardinals wrapped up their second Kaysinger Conference title in as many tries. Tipton (10-0, 4-0) advances to host District 6 runner-up Santa Fe on Wednesday at home in the opening round of the state playoffs, while district runner-up Sacred Heart (6-3, 2-2) will travel to play District 6 champion and second-ranked Concordia.
“That’s going to be another test for us,” Lyles said. “Concordia’s a great team and we just have to learn from this and get better.”
Sacred Heart had won six straight, outscoring opponents 234-42 during that span with four shutouts. But while no doubt an impressive streak for a team that had never topped two wins in its first three varsity seasons, none of the six teams carried a winning record and were a collective 10-37 entering Thursday night.
Needless to say, none of the teams carried the firepower of Tipton.
Flexing their offensive muscle, the Cardinals racked up 430 yards — 407 rushing, 23 passing — and their defense followed suit, forcing three Gremlin turnovers.
Sacred Heart quarterback Chase Lyles, leading an offense averaging more than 33 points a game, completed just 6 of 21 passes for 56 yards, was sacked three times and committed two turnovers (one fumble and one interception).
His backfield fared a little better, most notably Michael Hohne. Coming off a three-score effort against Lincoln, Hohne had 140 yards (113 rushing, 27 receiving) and the Gremlins’ lone touchdown late.
Early on, however, it was all Tipton.
In the first quarter alone, the Cardinals ran for 207 yards — 148 for Peeples on eight carries — with four touchdowns on the ground. Peoples, coming off a 411-yard, six-score effort against Windsor, got things started with an unmolested 54-yard touchdown run up the middle on the game’s opening play.
Then the floodgates opened.
Peoples followed with a 37-yard touchdown run, Zach Knipp notched a 5-yard rumble and Riley Brant tallied a 3-yard keeper to stretch the score to 32-0 not even nine minutes into the contest. All of the scores were followed by two-point conversions.
“We’ve been on the opposite side of this before, and it wasn’t fun,” Lyles said. “When you get down like that, you’re forced to throw and abandon the game plan and we just couldn’t rebound.”
Meanwhile, Sacred Heart struggled to move the chains. Aside from a couple of connections with tight end Caleb Morrison and wideout Hohne, Chase Lyles was held in check. The freshman signal caller completed just 4 of 17 passes for 46 yards in the first half.
His backfield didn’t fare any better, rushing for just 14 yards on 19 carries.
Going into the half, Tipton added a 26-yard run from Pepples, his third of the night, and Brant took a punt 45 yards to paydirt to give Tipton a 46-0 lead headed into the locker rooms.
In the second half, Tipton didn’t take its foot off the gas.
Forcing a Lyles fumble on the half’s opening set of downs, which was recovered by Jon Jarvis, Tipton’s offense went to work.
Peoples tacked on a 15-yard touchdown run and, following Wade Wood pick-6 on defense, Peoples added a 57-yard rumble to the end zone to stretch the lead to 66-0.
Capping off a 58-yard drive, Hohne scored from 7 yards out to keep Tipton from its third-straight shutout.