Sprowls produces for THS
"Stork" delivered a bundle of joy Friday at Beatty Field in Tonganoxie.
Senior Dustan Sprowls earned the fowl nickname his freshman year because of his long legs.
At a towering 6-5, "Stork" used all his height in a play that sparked a late THS rally and kept the Chieftains undefeated in the early season. Tonganoxie eventually won, 29-25.
Trailing Bonner Springs, 25-22, Tonganoxie approached the line of scrimmage, facing second and 16 after a holding penalty pushed them back to their own 14. With a play-action pass, senior quarterback Justin Walker faked a handoff to fellow senior Tim Hopkins, rolled to his right and found Sprowls for a 31-yard gain.
Sprowls was exuberant after the play, but the tall tight end only could talk about his quarterback after the game.
"All I can say is my quarterback is one of the best in the league," Sprowls said.
That's quite possible, but Sprowls' catch gave THS coach Mark Elston a gut feeling that the Chieftains would punch in the winning score.
"There wasn't a doubt in my mind that our chances were really good," Elston said.
Nor was there any pessimism from senior lineman Nick Stein.
"We've got 13 seniors, and we all are dedicated," Stein said. "We've worked way too hard to give it up."
The Chieftains appeared to be headed for a sequel to the previous week's 40-13 drubbing of Wamego.
Tonganoxie again scored on its first drive without much resistance. Tonganoxie drove 65 yards in 11 plays, capped by a 9-yard Billy Baska touchdown run.
On the extra point, a botched snap left Walker scrambling.
Before a Braves defender could take him to the ground, Walker threw up a prayer. After the ball was tipped twice, Luke McCarty caught the pass on his back and the Chieftains had an 8-0 lead.
Then, after forcing Bonner Springs to punt on their first possession inside their own 10, a horde of Chieftains broke through the Braves line. Clay Lamb put a hand on the attempted punt and Sam Mitchell snagged the loose ball for a second touchdown.
Bonner Springs, though, would respond with a zany play of its own.
After assembling a second-quarter touchdown drive, the Braves trailed 15-7. On their next series, BSHS drove down to the Tonganoxie 37 on a Danny Gardner 11-yard gain. Gardner, though, fumbled and THS hoped for a turnover. Instead, Braves receiver Matt Middleton scooped up the loose ball and ran in for the score.
Tonganoxie drove deep into Bonner Springs territory in the second quarter, but the Braves picked off a Justin Walker pass intended for Billy Baska. Tonganoxie then got the ball back.
Kicker Kirk Rodell lined up for the 33-yard field goal. The soccer player had plenty of distance, but ball sailed wide right and Tonganoxie went into the intermission in a dead heat, 15-15.
In the second half, Bonner Springs extended its run to 18 unanswered points with a 29-yard field goal. With 6:56 left in the third.
Tonganoxie answered with a touchdown and held a 22-18 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Bonner Springs threatened again in the fourth quarter, but the Chieftains forced a fumble deep in their own territory.
THS quarterback Justin Walker appeared to have tweaked his wrist on a running play during the drive, but Elston signaled for him to stay in the game.
Two plays later, Walker fumbled a pitch to Baska. Bonner Springs capitalized for the go-ahead score with 4:43 left in the game, but Walker and the Chieftains hung in for a game-winning drive of their own.
It was quite a game for spectators to enjoy, but another story for the THS coach, who improved to 2-0 in the young season.
"My head's about to split open," Elston said. "I can't scream any louder."
But as much as his skull throbbed after the game, Elston, the fourth-year THS coach was heartened that his veteran team didn't panic when they were trailing by three with nearly five minutes to play.
"The guys showed some moxie," Elston said.
THS finished the game with 291 yards of total offense, including 234 yards on the ground. Baska again shined for the Chieftains.
He had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game with a 141-yard performance on 19 carries
Baska and the Chieftains will look for win No. 3 Friday when De Soto comes to town.
The Wildcats put up more than 40 points against Immaculata in Week 1 and also are 2-0 on the year.
"We'll have to play a lot better defensively," Elston said.