Chieftains pound Immaculata, 42-7
A 1-2-3 punch helped Tonganoxie remain unbeaten and spoil Immaculata's homecoming Friday in Leavenworth.
Senior running back Billy Baska had one touchdown, senior running back Tim Hopkins had two touchdowns and senior quarterback Justin Walker scored three as Tonganoxie claimed a 42-7 Kaw Valley League win.
The Chieftains, who remain unbeaten at 4-0, moved into sole possession of first place in the KVL after Piper dropped Mill Valley, 22-21.
The Chieftains actually used a special teams adjustment to help turn a sputtering first drive into the first of many touchdowns.
On fourth and nine from their own 33, the Chieftains were ready to punt after gaining just a yard in their first series.
But Tonganoxie noticed an uncovered player in its punt formation. An audible was called and punter Ross Starcher, the team's No. 2 quarterback, threw to a wide-open Zach Ditty, who ran to Immaculata's 30.
Senior quarterback Justin Walker, just two plays later, zoomed 29 yards for the touchdown. That was the first of six touchdowns for Tonganoxie, which eventually won, 42-7.
After a missed extra point on the opening touchdown drive, the Chieftains led 6-0, but extended their lead to 14-0 after Tim Hopkins ran 34 yards for a touchdown. Billy Baska then ran in the two-point conversion.
Then the turnover bug bit both teams.
On its next series, THS fumbled on the Immaculata 42. Billy Baska intercepted a Raider pass three plays later. Tonganoxie then gave the ball back on its next offensive play with a fumble. Immaculata couldn't generate a first down after getting the ball right back. In fact, the Raiders couldn't convert on fourth down and four from the THS 15.
And then, three plays later, Tonganoxie fumbled again -- but this time, the Chieftains recovered.
Before Friday, Tonganoxie lost two fumbles overall in three games, but THS coach Mark Elston said with the Chieftains' offense, that can happen.
"When you run the option, you're going to have a turnover," Elston said. "That happens. We can live with that one."
It also helped that Immaculata never really threatened.
Tonganoxie extended its lead to 21-0 with 9:12 left in the first half when Hopkins bowled his way in for a 16-yard touchdown run. Kirk Rodell added the extra point.
Hopkins finished the game with two touchdowns. He had 108 yards on 12 carries, but gave most of the credit to downfield blockers Shane Howard and Dustan Sprowls.
"Without those guys I wouldn't have those big runs," Hopkins said.
As for those back-to-back turnovers, Hopkins said, there's no need to flip the panic switch.
"I think that's why we don't get down like a lot of other teams," Hopkins said. "We just shake it off."
Tonganoxie hasn't had to shake much off in its first four games. The Chieftains have outscored opponents, 161-64. The only threat came Sept. 12 when the Chieftains had to come from behind in its final drive and defeated Bonner Springs, 29-25.
Against Immaculata, the final statistics didn't leave much doubt as to who earned the victory.
Tonganoxie racked up 450 yards -- 370 on the ground -- while limiting the Raiders to 149 yards of total offense. Immaculata had just 40 rushing yards on 34 carries.
Baska led the team with two interceptions, while Sam Mitchell had the third. One of Baska's interceptions came deep in the Chieftains' own territory. Baska bobbed and weaved his way across the field for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back because of a clipping penalty.
THS plays Santa Fe Trail on Friday as part of homecoming at Beatty Field. The Chargers fell to 1-3 last week after losing to Basehor-Linwood by a strange count of 2-0.
BLHS scored its points after the SFT quarterback was flagged for an intentional grounding -- in the end zone. That resulted in an automatic safety and the BLHS held on for the win.
Santa Fe Trail won last year's meeting with THS, 35-6, near Carbondale.