THS back in the race for playoffs
Tonganoxie held off a late Basehor-Linwood rally Friday. And in the process, the Chieftains held on to their postseason hopes.
For Basehor-Linwood, a furious fourth-quarter rally fell short as the Bobcats lost to Tonganoxie, 17-12.
For Tonganoxie, the Chieftains now are at 1-1 in district play and can advance to the playoffs with a win Thursday in Lansing.
After being shutout for three quarters, the Bobcats scored touchdowns on each of their last two possessions. BLHS, however, couldn't overcome some costly breakdowns on special teams.
The game's first play turned out to be a big one for the Chieftains as they took the opening kickoff from their own goal line and returned it 66 yards. The return set up a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
The Chieftains were able to muster one eight-play drive that took them all the way to the Bobcats' one yard line late in the half. The defense rose up and stopped them on fourth down, but the Chieftains turned the ball over to a struggling Basehor-Linwood offense.
The Bobcats barely moved the ball from its own goal line when punter Seth Lashbrook fielded the snap on fourth down and stepped out of bounds for a safety. The dangerous field position was a symptom of an offense that managed just two first downs before the Chieftains dropped into a prevent defense at the end of the half. The Bobcats finished with 146 yards of total offense on the night.
"I think it was just their defense," Basehor quarterback Mike Armstrong said. "At the beginning of the game we were doing the option and it wasn't working because they kept sucking those linebackers outside."
Tonganoxie, meanwhile, played in its first game without top running back Billy Baska, who tore his MCL a week before against Piper. Fellow running back Tim Hopkins, who had a less severe MCL tear he sustained against the Pirates, was used sparingly.
That left Sam Mitchell as Tonganoxie's top back. The junior carried the ball 20 times for 90 yards, while quarterback Justin Walker had 15 carries for 64 yards. Zach Ditty carried 11 times for 64, while B.T. Fleming had 14 yards on five carries. Walker was 2-of-3 in the air with 36 yards, including a 3-yard two-point conversion pass to Luke McCarty. Dustan Sprowls had the team's other catch on a 33-yard reception. Sprowls re-injured a shoulder last Friday, but should be available Thursday.
"For being that big of a game and a must-win situation, I thought Sam and Zach did a remarkable job," THS coach Mark Elston said. "Neither came off the field."
Elston also said that the offensive line overall didn't play well, but senior tackle Alan Bauerly had an impressive game.
Defensively, Matt Weyer led the team with 14 tackles, while Elston said Adam Alexander "had probably his best game of the year." Ross Starcher and Ryan Burke performed well at the corner positions, while Jerry Hartshorn contributed at outside linebacker.
Without Baska or a full-speed Hopkins, the Chieftains were below their season average as the team had 268 total yards. Baska is a question mark for this week's regular-season finale, while Hopkins should be able to play. Although Basehor-Linwood's offense sputtered, the Bobcat defense forced Tonganoxie to punt on several drives and the scored remained at 10-0.
"I think the effort on defense was great," said BLHS coach Paul Brown. "Tonganoxie's a good team and they've won a lot of games this year. I was really proud of the kids in that respect."
The offense finally caused the Chieftains some problems with five minutes left in the game. On six running plays, Peter Brown, Armstrong and Tyler Dowdall netted 55 yards and Brown scored from the three yard-line, making the score 10-6 after the Chieftains blocked the extra point.
With the game suddenly in doubt, the Chieftains responded with a touchdown drive of their own, a critical answer that left the Bobcats down two scores again with only two minutes left to play.
Still, the Bobcats didn't quit. Armstrong threw for 20 yards and led a 66-yard drive that was also helped by two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the Chieftains.
Peter Brown scored again to bring the Bobcats within 17-12 with 30 seconds left.
Basehor's final hopes died when Chris Prgomet's onside kick was recovered by a Tonganoxie lineman.
Elston was concerned with the Chieftains' intensity against the Bobcats after dropping a heartbreaker to Piper the week before.
"The intensity and desire to be successful every play wasn't there where it needed to be," Elston said.
With a win Thursday against Lansing, the Chieftains (7-1 overall and 6-1 in the Kaw Valley League) will advance to the playoffs. A loss would eliminate the Chieftains from playoff consideration.
"It's simple -- win and you're in," Elston said. "You don't have to worry about points. That part of it is good."
The Lions are 5-3 after Piper defeated them, 40-7, on Friday.
"Lansing had been playing pretty well," Elston said. "They were beaten fairly handily by Piper, but they've got a lot of athletes. They've won five in a row, so they do know how to win.
"We'll definitely have to play better than we did Friday if we're going to be successful."
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