Plucked by Piper
Tonganoxie brought plenty of firepower for most of its game Friday at Piper.
But no direct hits left the Pirates afloat and the Chieftains searching for a lifeboat.
Playing in the first week of districts, Tonganoxie started like a confident battleship. The Chieftains had 151 total yards, with 146 coming on the ground. The Chieftain defense, meanwhile, suffocated the Pirates, allowing just 27 yards with 16 of those rushing.
Dominating statistics gave every indication that Tonganoxie was in fine shape, but the tide turned swiftly in the fourth quarter. Still scoreless with more than seven minutes left in the game, Piper's Shawnn Lampson broke free for a 78-yard touchdown run. Matt Mosier booted in the extra point and Piper had a 7-0 lead. Tonganoxie couldn't muster any offense after the score, and Piper improved to 3-4. More importantly, the Pirates are now 1-0 in districts.
"They outplayed us," Tonganoxie coach Mark Elston said. "They wanted it more than we did in the second half."
After all of the production the Chieftains had in the first half, THS sank in the fourth quarter. Tonganoxie had just three yards in that stanza, compared to Piper's 130 yards.
The strange turn of events was such a change from a mammoth Tonganoxie drive in the first half. The Chieftains assembled a 25-play drive that started on the THS 22, but ended on the Piper 9 after an incomplete pass to Billy Baska on fourth and 6.
"We ran 44 plays in the first half," Elston said. "There's some games you don't get 44 plays an entire game.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot time and time again."
Although turnovers were reduced against Piper, Tonganoxie still had four miscues to the Pirates' one. Against Mill Valley a week before, THS had eight turnovers and still lost by just six. Another one-touchdown defeat Friday left Tonganoxie in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Chieftain defenders had chances for four other picks against the Pirates, but couldn't convert. Now both teams are 3-4, but both following different trends. While Tonganoxie's skid has hit three, Piper has won three straight.
With the new playoff format, the Chieftains still have a chance at making the playoffs. The top two district teams advance to the postseason, compared to just the district champion in past years.
Wins against Basehor-Linwood on Friday and Lansing Oct. 31 probably would put the Chieftains in good shape for the playoffs. The Bobcats are 0-7, while Lansing is 4-3
"We and Basehor are in the same boat," Elston said. "We have to win the next two to have a chance."
If Piper and Tonganoxie both win their remaining two games, they would likely be the district representatives for the playoffs. If Piper loses to Lansing but beats Basehor-Linwood, while Tonganoxie wins out, three teams would have 2-1 records. That would then bring some extra number crunching to decide which two teams make the playoffs.
Elston said Tonganoxie just has to win its games.
"We've just got to worry about ourselves and nobody else," Elston said. "We've got to worry about our own destiny."