Chieftains wallop Wamego
The cleat certainly was on the other foot Friday in Wamego.
The Chieftains ran, scrambled, and, yes, even passed their way past Wamego with a 40-13 shellacking.
State power ratings had the Red Raiders as a seven-point favorite, but Tonganoxie switched fortunes after losing 32-12 a year ago on its home turf.
This season, the Chieftains had to make the long bus ride along U.S. Highway 24, but it didn't take Tonganoxie long to feel right at home.
On the fourth play from scrimmage, quarterback Justin Walker found running back Billy Baska with a pass over the middle. Baska scampered 60 yards, and the Chieftains had their first touchdown with less than a minute and a half ticked off the clock.
"We've been trying to run that play for three years," THS coach Mark Elston said.
That opening drive set the mood for the Chieftains. The offense kept racking up yardage and Baska claimed a significant portion of that.
The senior had four of Tonganoxie's six touchdowns -- two rushing and two receiving -- along with 124 rushing yards on 11 carries and 139 receiving yards on four catches.
On the two receiving touchdowns, the passes weren't necessarily bombs, but the running back used a juke here and there for plays of 60 and 76 yards. He also had a 49-yard run.
Baska, though, wouldn't strike a Heisman pose after the performance.
"I looked like I was juking people, but really I had blockers opening up lanes," Baska said.
Elston had praise for his third-year starter.
"Billy's had flashes of that in the past," Elston said. "But he put that all together into a complete game tonight."
The Chieftains pounded the Wamego defense with 541 total yards of offense. Even the passing game, which usually hasn't been a big part of Tonganoxie's offensive formula the last three years, was vibrant Friday.
"I think we passed more tonight than we have the last two years," Elston said.
Walker connected on seven of 11 passes for three touchdowns and 220 yards.
Defense didn't hurt Tonganoxie's game plan either. The Chieftains caused five Wamego turnovers and limited the Red Raiders' traditionally potent passing offense to 148 yards.
Midway through the second quarter, Wamego cut the Tonganoxie lead to 14 at 20-6, but that was the closest margin. THS scored on a 57-yard pass play from Walker to Tim Hopkins with 2:38 left in the half and took a 26-6 lead into the intermission.
Turnovers and injuries to three linemen through the course of the game didn't help the Red Raiders, but giving up more than 500 yards of offense usually translates into a loss.
The Red Raiders also had the task of following up last year's rout in Tonganoxie.
"We really wanted this one," Baska said.
Tonganoxie (1-0) now will take on Bonner Springs, a team the Chieftains defeated 21-7 in last year's second week. The Braves hit a late-season surge and advanced to sectionals in the Class 5A playoffs where they lost to eventual state runner-up Topeka West.
Bonner Springs also lost many linemen and its starting quarterback and tailback to graduation.
But Elston knows the Braves return other high-quality players who have playoff experience.
"They'll be tough," Elston said.
Kick-off will be at 7 p.m. Friday in Tonganoxie.
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