Chieftains slip past Cats
Tonganoxie stymied any chances De Soto had of winning a district football championship with a gutsy drive Friday in De Soto.
It wasn't the 345 yards the Chieftains churned out on the ground that beat De Soto 27-26 in the second game of district play.
Nor was it any of four scoring drives Tonganoxie put together during the heavyweight slugfest. Never mind the missed opportunities on De Soto extra points, either.
The drive that beat the Wildcats didn't even produce a score for the Chieftains. But it did keep the ball out of De Soto's hands.
"It was very frustrating," said De Soto wide receiver Danny Doherty, who caught two touchdown passes. "We knew if we could get the ball back, we'd have a chance (to win the game). But they were a good team as well. We were neck-in-neck with them. We wanted it so bad."
With eight minutes remaining in the game, the De Soto team was feeling pretty good about its chances to improve district record to 2-0 and jump ahead of the Chieftains and into the driver's seat for the crown.
After cutting the deficit to 27-26 on a 51-yard halfback pass from sophomore Tyler Farmer to the senior Doherty, the Wildcat defense attempted to get the ball back for a winning drive.
The dust finally settled when Chieftain quarterback Ross Starcher took a knee to run out the clock on the 19th play of the drive that ended on the Wildcat 20-yard line. Every play was a running play.
"They were just more physical than we were," De Soto football coach Brad Scott said. "And our defensive line didn't play all that well. They did what they had to do, and we weren't tackling."
Through it all, the Chieftains converted four fourth-and-short situations into first downs. On one of those sets of downs De Soto jumped offside to assist the visitors.
Tonganoxie opened the scoring on its first drive of the game, forcing De Soto to to play catch-up the entire way.
The Chieftains started at their 20-yard line and ran the ball on all 10 plays of the drive. Starcher capped off the possession with a 4-yard plunge, and Jeff Hughes added the all-important extra point kick, putting Tonganoxie up 7-0 with more than eight minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
De Soto countered the bruising, time-consuming running game of the Chieftains by going to the air. After 10 straight running plays of its own,Wildcats' quarterback Neil Erisman threaded a pass between defenders to senior fullback Leif Goleman on the first play of the second quarter. After Austin Bills missed on the extra point kick, Scott junked the extra-point kicking game for the remainder of the contest.
"Our kicking game had been so inconsistent this year that when we missed that first one, the coaching staff decided to pull it the rest of the game," Scott said. "Plus, what some people don't realize is that we lost our long snapper Adam Faircloth for the rest of the game due to a concussion."
The Chieftains took nearly five minutes off the clock on their next scoring drive. The possession consumed 12 plays and 71 yards and ended with 80 seconds left on the clock in the half. It was capped by a six-yard run by running back Zach Ditty around the left side.
The Wildcats countered 55 seconds later when Goleman latched onto his second scoring pass of the game from 14 yards out. Goleman's conversion run tied the game at 14-14 at intermission.
Tonganoxie started its first possession of the third quarter at its own 37-yard line and went 63 yards in 14 plays to pay dirt. Ditty was again the dagger to De Soto after he raced around the left side of the line, scoring from four yards out. Hughes extra point kick gave the Chieftains a seven-point cushion.
De Soto's offense received a little help from the defensive line on its next scoring drive when Pat Burton hauled in a Starcher pass at the Tonganoxie 23-yard line. Doherty then snared his first scoring catch of the game two plays later when Erisman got him the ball from 21 yards out. Goleman's extra point run was stopped short, forcing the Wildcats to play from behind again.
After Tonganoxie scored on Sam Mitchell's 59-yard run, Farmer's 51-yard pass to Doherty set up the final drama.
The Chieftain running game helped the victors dominate certain statistical areas. Tonganoxie ripped through the Wildcat defense for 345 rushing yards on 66 carries, compared to an un-Wildcat-like 143 yards for De Soto on 39 totes.
Tonganoxie ground out 23 first downs to 12 for the Wildcats, and the visitors held the ball for nearly 28 minutes in the game.
Thanks to their fourth-down efficiency on the final drive, the Chieftains converted on all seven fourth-down situations in which they went for it. De Soto held a 97-51 edge in passing yards, with all four pass completions producing touchdowns.
De Soto will look to wrap up a playoff spot with a home win Thursday against a 1-7 Bonner Springs team. The game starts at 7 p.m. Tonganoxie can win the district championship with a victory Thursday over Perry-Lecompton.
Osawatomie's loss Friday to Anderson County gave the Wildcats an undisputed small-school Frontier League championship.