Gusts aid THS in big quarter en route to 42-8 win at SFT
Being a little rushed at the line of scrimmage didn't hurt Tonganoxie's ground attack against Santa Fe Trail Friday near Carbondale.
With a 14-0 lead at halftime, THS coach Mark Elston opted for the no-huddle offense in the second half. The Chieftains eventually roared to a season-high in rushing yards with 363 as Tonganoxie erupted in the second half and left SFT with a 42-8 win.
"Our rhythm is better in the no-huddle," Elston said. "I thought we had to eliminate them trying to blitz and trying to adjust to the format."
Ross Starcher scored on a 9-yard run in the first quarter and Sam Mitchell tacked on a second touchdown in the second quarter with an 8-yard run. But Elston didn't feel secure with a two-touchdown lead on a night when the wind certainly was a factor.
Oh yes, the wind, another reason Elston went to the hurry-up offense.
Tonganoxie had the wind at its back in the third quarter, so Elston wanted to take advantage of that as long as he had it.
The strategy worked in Tonganoxie's favor.
The Chieftains put up three touchdowns in the quarter and put the game out of reach.
"The way the wind was, we wanted to get as many plays as possible with the wind," Elston said. "I knew if we got another two touchdowns on them it would be tough."
That it was.
When the fourth quarter began, Tonganoxie had a 35-0 lead.
Tonganoxie used the chilly weather to its advantage --
Just ask Kaleb Lawrence. The senior linebacker has played at fullback also because of injuries in the THS backfield. For Lawrence and other Chieftains who played both ways, the crisp fall evening was perfect.
"The weather was with us this time," Lawrence said.
The senior also mentioned that his stamina was better after having a week of platooning under his belt.
Clearly, not dealing with warmer temperatures helped Elston's running backs, all of whom play both defense and offense.
"It's really the first time all year the weather has allowed us to do that," Elston said. "We had to be careful not to gas them too much on the defensive side of the ball."
Starcher had 15 carries for 125 yards against the Chargers, including three touchdowns. Sam Mitchell had two touchdowns with 17 carries for 80 yards. Zach Ditty had seven carries for 24 yards, while Lawrence compiled seven carries for 42 yards. Jeff Price, who had three rushes for 12 yards, scored Tonganoxie's final touchdown.
Tonganoxie took to the air just three times. Starcher was 2-for-3 passing with 15 yards.
Defensively, Mitchell had an interception and Clay Lamb had a fumble recovery.
Tonganoxie held Santa Fe Trail to 50 passing yards and 53 rushing yards. Charger quarterback Brian Shively was 4-for-10 passing, while SFT ran the ball 34 times.
With their second consecutive victory against the Chargers, the Chieftains moved to 4-1 overall on the season and 4-1 in the Kaw Valley League.
Now THS must turn the attention to rival Basehor-Linwood, a team Elston said has improved greatly from last year.
"They're big, real big," Elston said. "They seem to be improved, specifically on the defensive side of the ball."
Elston also is leery of Basehor quarterback Michael Armstrong. Running Back Will Peterson also has shined for the Bobcats with three 100-yard rushing efforts this season.
After finishing last season at 2-7, the Bobcats already have surpassed that win total this year. BLHS is 3-2 after Friday's 23-22 come-from-behind victory against Columbus on the road at the southeast Kansas town.
Basehor-Linwood trailed, 16-0, at one point before scoring 23 unanswered points as the Bobcats held off CHS.
"That in itself is far better than last year," Elston noted. "If they would have been down 16 they would have mailed it in. This year they keep fighting."
With a win Friday, Tonganoxie would ensure its fifth consecutive non-losing season.
A win also would give the Chieftains another homecoming victory. Homecoming festivities started Tuesday at THS.
"We've got to be sure to focus on the football game and not all the extra-curricular stuff that's going on this week," Elston said.
Kaw Valley League notes
- Piper has been on a crash-course since losing a heartbreaker to Tonganoxie on Sept. 17. The Pirates opened the season at 2-0, but now have dropped three straight games.
PHS fell to Tonganoxie by a slim 17-14 score, but a Sept. 25 trip to Atchison proved to be a nightmare.
The Pirates committed 10 turnovers in an 87-34 loss.
Last week, Piper suffered another rout as Immaculata dropped PHS, 32-0.
- Speaking of Immaculata, the Raiders are on an opposite path. Immaculata started the season 0-2, but wins against Basehor-Linwood, Bishop Ward and Piper have catapulted the Raiders to first place in the KVL small-school division. A class 3A football squad, the Raiders are the smallest school in the KVL.