FOWLER — It is uncharted territory, while at the same time, business as usual for the Sedgwick County football team.
With a decisive exclamation, Sedgwick County claimed its fifth consecutive 8-man football state championship Saturday, downing homestanding Fowler 44-8.
With the state title, the Cougars become the first 8-man program in state history to win five straight championships, and just the third program in state history to win five straight, regardless of classification. Limon claimed six straight from 1963-68 and Valor Christian pulled off the feat from 2009-13.
"It's huge for these kids and it's huge for our community," Sedgwick County head coach Chris Michel said. "It's a testament to the amount of work these boys put in every day, that kind of stuff that people don't see, and I couldn't be prouder of them."
The rare air that is a fifth consecutive state championship looked like it might be in question in the first half.
After Sedgwick County opened the game with an 18-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Beau Parker, the first of his three touchdown runs, Fowler got right back into it.
Burning Sedgwick County three times on read-option quarterback keepers, Fowler quarterback Luke Bitter led the Grizlies on an 8-play, 89-yard drive, ending with a 29-yard touchdown run by Bitter on fourth down, to tie it up 8-8 with 3:53 left in the first half.
It was the first score given up by Sedgwick County in six weeks, and would be the final score it would give up on its way to a thunderous state championship win.
"We had to fix the little things," Michel said, "tackle and come off the block better, justing making some small adjustments, and we told them to go out and make plays in the second half."
After a Jared Ehmke pass found its way to junior Terrance Heath with 45 seconds left in the first half, giving the Cougars a 14-8 haltime lead, it didn't let up in the second half.
Outgaining Fowler 220-24 in the second half, the Parker-led Sedgwick County running game hit its stride.
Parker got every touch on an 8-play, 70-yard scoring drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown burst, giving the Cougars a 22-8 lead.
After Sedgwick County blocked a Fowler punt on the following possession, setting it up with the ball on the Grizzly 30-yard line, Parker carried the rock three more times, his 20-yard touchdown run making it 30-8, sinking Fowler's hope to stop Sedgwick County's championship coronation.
Parker, voted the game's most valuable player, put together a 40-carry, 242-yard performance to close out his high school career.
"This one feels a bit different not having (former Sedgwick running back Layne Green) around, sharing carries with him," Parker said. "But I was ready to take over this year and do what it takes. You've got to dig deep and find it somewhere, especially in a game like this."
Losing just five seniors from this championship team, Sedgwick County can think about joining Limon in the six-timers' club next season. But before those kinds of thoughts, Michel said, the team will savor the taste of this latest crown.
"We're going to enjoy this one for a while," Michel said. "This doesn't happen very often."