The Butler football team has now avenged its only loss on the season, hammering Highland 38-7 in a Region VI semifinal contest on Sunday at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
With the win, No. 8-ranked Butler (8-1) advances to the Region VI championship game for the eighth consecutive season. The Grizzlies will host third-seeded Hutchinson, which won on the road at Dodge City on Sunday by a 21-6 score. This will be the fourth straight year Butler and Hutch have played in the championship game and the fifth time in the past six seasons.
To get to the championship game, Butler used a punishing ground game and ferocious defense, gaining a measure of revenge on a Highland team that had shocked the Grizzlies 23-21 here on Sept. 21.
Butler opened the game with a 16-play scoring drive over 75 yards that took 7:37 off the clock. It was capped by a four-yard screen pass from Hunter Vaughn to Ty Suggs on third down. The big play on the drive was a fake punt executed by Suggs, who doubles as Butler's punter. He ran for 17 yards of 4th-and-3 to keep the drive going just past midfield.
Highland would answer with a lengthy drive of its own, eventually scoring on an 11-yard pass from Brandon Bergeron to Durwin Jones. At that point, the game was tied 7-7 with 3:39 left in the first quarter, and it looked as if they game might turn into an offensive scoring fest.
Instead, the Butler defense took over. Highland would not score again as the Grizzlies would accumulate 12 sacks for more than 80 yards of losses.
On offense, Butler would do most of its work on the ground. Butler's second touchdown came on a one-yard plunge by fullback Miles Thomas to make it 14-7.
A bizarre special teams play helped Butler score its third touchdown of the first half. Highland was at its own 29, punting into a stiff south wind. The punt got caught in the wind, hit the ground and bounced back all the way to the 10-yard line, making it a 19-yard loss on the kick. One play later, Chris Carson ran into the end zone, making it 21-7.
Butler would add two more rushing touchdowns in the second half on a pair of one-yard runs – one by quarterback Hunter Vaughn and another by Miles Thomas – along with a 36-yard field goal by Robert Rawlings.
The Grizzlies rushed for 349 yards, led by Chris Carson with 19 carries for 146 yards. Vaughn ran for 48 yards on 14 carries and also completed 12 of 21 passes for 95 yards.
Butler's defense held Highland to 201 yards of total offense, including a negative 39 yards in rushing due to the 12 sacks. Stephon Hall had three sacks while Jamone Boyd and Owen Williams each had a pair of sacks to lead the way.
Butler is now 29-3 in the playoffs under Morrell and has won its last seven Region VI playoff games dating back to 2010. The victory was also Butler's seventh straight win in playoff semifinal games.