Halloween hoopla for THS
On a dark and chilly night, Tonganoxie fans found one more reason to celebrate on Halloween.
The delicious treat was like one of those peanut butter taffy candies. On the outside was a nice win against Lansing. But on the inside, an even better taste a state playoff berth.
Tonganoxie held on for a 21-20 win against Lansing on Thursday, thanks to a missed extra point by the Lions' John Garret with less than three minutes left in the game.
"They could've folded and gotten depressed," THS coach Mark Elston said. "But they made a play when they had to."
The miscue helped the Chieftains to a 5-4 record and a second-place finish in District 7. With the new playoff format, the top two places advance, meaning Tonganoxie is in the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
"I'm going to enjoy this the rest of the evening," Elston said.
The third-year coach is now 15-12 in three seasons in Tonganoxie and made his first playoff appearance Tuesday in Atchison. While the Redmen finished the regular season at 6-3, the Chieftains won their last two games after dropping three straight.
Thursday, though, was a sharp contrast to Week 8's 66-13 thumping in Basehor.
The game arguably came down to a massive goal-line stand in the second quarter. Trailing 13-7, Lansing put together a dominating drive and had first and goal on the two-foot line.
The first play up the middle went for a three-yard loss.
Second and goal from the three a pass falls incomplete.
Third and goal from the three Riemann is sacked for a loss.
Fourth and goal from the seven: Lansing sets up for a field goal, but fakes and tries for a touchdown. Tonganoxie, though sniffed out the fake and kept its lead.
While the Chieftains' offense was finished scoring for the evening in the first quarter, the defense provided what would become the game-winner.
The Lions, with a second and five on their own 37, ran a fake reverse pass, but senior James Hartshorn was the recipient of a throw. He took the pick in for the score, and then ran in the two-point conversion for a 21-7 lead.
"When they reversed it, the dude looked right back where he wanted to throw," Hartshorn said.
The senior accounted for nearly all of the Chieftains' points. Along with the interception for a touchdown and the two-point conversion, he scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Justin Walker that made the score 13-7. The score came shortly after defensive lineman Clayton McDaniel forced Riemann to fumble. Fellow lineman Luke McCarty scooped up the loose ball and rumbled deep into Lion territory.
The game actually began with visions of the BLHS game, as quarterback Troy Morando broke free for a 76-yard touchdown run just 54 seconds into the game. But Lansing answered on its initial possession, connecting on a 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Riemann to Nick Ontiberos. After a John Garrett kick, the score was quickly knotted up with not quite three minutes off the clock.
At the half, Tonganoxie had 156 yards of offense, 144 on the ground. Lansing (4-5) had 172 yards, with 99 in the air.
In the third quarter, Lansing narrowed the score to 21-14 with a touchdown and PAT.
But after the comeback fell short, Chieftain players celebrated a much-welcomed playoff invitation, especially Hartshorn.
"I was really happy for my senior year," Hartshorn said. "That's what I wanted."
Tonganoxie 21, Lansing 20
Lansing (4-4, 3-4) 7 0 7 6 20
Tonganoxie (5-4, 5-3) 13 8 0 0 21
T Troy Morando 76 run (Kirk Rodell kick)
L Nick Ontiberos 45 pass from Alex Riemann (John Garret kick)
T James Hartshorn 10 pass from Justin Walker (kick failed)
T Hartshorn 37 interception return (Hartshorn run)
L Conn Balkely 1 run (Garret kick)
L Alex Riemann 1 run (kick failed)