Early blown chances cost Wildcats in loss
Last Friday's high school football game between De Soto and Tonganoxie was a classic example of how important it is to score points when opportunities present themselves.
Tonganoxie rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit to squeak out a 23-20 Kaw Valley League win over the Wildcats, who fell to 1-3 overall and in the conference.
But De Soto should have had a much bigger lead over the Chieftains at intermission. The Wildcats dented the Tonganoxie 25-yard line three times in the first half, and twice crept inside the 20 yard line, before coming away empty handed.
The Chieftains held on downs twice when De Soto got inside the 25-yard line. Once on an incompleted pass and again when Greg Francis was pressured and pitched back to Michael Allen for a nine-yard loss.
The Wildcats also came away empty when Francis missed on a field goal attempt from the Tonganoxie 19-yard line.
"We missed on some opportunities," said Wildcat coach Brad Scott. "You fight and you fight and when you reach a point to win ballgames, you have to learn how to do that."
There was no doubt about the effort of his team, however.
"The kids really laid it on the line tonight," said Scott. "We talked to them about being in position to win the game. We were...we lost.
"But these guys fight no matter what the score is. That's why I like to coach them. We're blue collar."
The Wildcats were in the game until the end. In fact, the game was in doubt until Tonganoxie senior defensive back Matt Alexander intercepted Greg Francis' pass at the Chieftain 36-yard line with 18 seconds left.
According to Scott one plus in the narrow loss was the establishment of other offensive players to take the load off running back Michael Allen.
Francis had possibly his best game of the year. Though he gained just 11 yards on seven carries rushing the ball, he established a passing game that was nonexistent against Basehor-Linwood.
The junior quarterback connected on nine of 18 passes, with the late interception, for 145 yards and scores of nine and 45 yards to Bart McGivern and Allen respectively.
His favorite target on the night, however, was Justin Haub who had five catches for 69 yards.
The defense that was missing in the 49-27 loss to Basehor-Linwood also made its presence felt.
On the Chieftains' five first half possessions, they were forced to punt twice, fumbled the ball away, came up short on downs at the Wildcat 14 -yard line and dropped to a knee to end the half.
Tonganoxie netted just six first downs in the first 24-minutes of action and 122 yards of total offense.
De Soto sophomore Luke Young earned his stripes by getting to Tonganoxie quarterback Troy Morando twice for sacks and 13 yards in losses. He had a solo sack and shared one with Allen.
But in the second half Tonganoxie scored on its second, third and fourth possessions on runs of six and two yards and a pass of 39 yards.
"We are fighting ourselves and our program's history," said Scott. "When you start winning games you learn how to win these kinds of games. Tonganoxie did that tonight."
The Wildcats took their only lead of the night on their first possession of the game. And it was an impressive one.
The Wildcats ran 13 plays and wiped out half of the first quarter with a shove-it-down-your-throat 71-yard drive that was capped off by Allen's four -yard run.
Haub caught two passes for 26 yards on the drive, including a 19-yarder that put De Soto in business at the Chieftain four-yard line.
Allen again led the ground game for De Soto with 173 yards on 30 carries. He has notched 775 yards in only four games so far this season. That's almost 194 yards a game.
Besides Francis' 11 yards, Logan Smith netted three yards on three carries to round out De Soto rushing yards.
Leading the ground charges for the Chieftains was Joe Sledd who bulled his way ahead for 109 yards on 14 carries.
Morando connected on three of his four passes for 102 yards with Mike Mayse coming down with two catches for 95 yards.
Haub hauled in five aerials for 69 yards for the Wildcats. Allen brought his total yards to 233 by nabbing onto two passes for 60 yards. McGivern snared one pass for nine yards.
Friday, De Soto travels to Marysville for a tough non-conference game, their first of the year, that kicks off at 7 p.m.