Chieftains limit LHS to -29 yards rushing in win
Lansing might have felt as though it was running its offense in rewind.
In a way, that was the case.
The Lions carried the ball 28 times against Tonganoxie on Friday in the season opener. Their total yardage on those plays came to negative-29 yards.
Tonganoxie's smothering defense also allowed just 37 yards in the air as the Chieftains cruised in a 26-8 Kaw Valley League victory.
"It's all the front line," THS defensive back Ross Starcher said. "They kept getting in the quarterback's face."
Sophomore defensive lineman Brian Morris had three quarterback sacks on the night, while fellow lineman Kent Fleming had six tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
"Morris is unbelievable, it was like playing with McCarty," Fleming said, referring to former Chieftain Luke McCarty who now plays at Missouri Southern.
Lansing's Matt Warner went 5-for-22 as a passer. The junior's quarterback varsity debut was a rough one. He also had six interceptions.
One of those picks arguably could have been the team's top highlight on the year. As Warner threw a pass, a Chieftain lineman tipped the ball. The pigskin then dropped toward the ground, but not before an outstretched Fleming made a diving catch.
The junior, who's listed at 5-10, 305 pounds, said he wasn't quite sure how he made the grab.
"If that happened a million times I'd probably only catch it once."
Starcher had two interceptions, Garrett Palmer and Zach Ditty also each had a pick. Clay Lamb returned his interception for a touchdown.
Tonganoxie's defense picked up the Chieftain offense. Two of Tonganoxie's four touchdowns were either credited to the defense or special teams.
At quarterback, Starcher connected on one of five passes for five yards. He also had 12 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown.
"Ross Starcher did a remarkable job of audibling," THS coach Mark Elston said.
Sam Mitchell led all THS running backs with 83 yards on 14 carries. Zach Ditty had 14 yards on six carries, B.T. Fleming had 16 yards on eight carries and Brandon Willis amassed 38 yards on three carries, one of which was a long touchdown run.
Overall, the offense had 43 carries for 195 yards.
Lamb now leads the team in scoring, but no points came on offense.
Along with his 41-yard interception return, he had a 5-yard touchdown run on a punt return. Mitchell returned a punt about 30 yards, but fumbled. Lamb was there to punch in the score and put the Chieftains up, 20-0.
Lansing put a scare into Tonganoxie with a kickoff return that opened the second half but the team would get no closer than 14 as Tonganoxie added another score in the fourth quarter.
Although special teams provided a spark with the punt return, Starcher also had a strong performance in the punting category. The senior averaged 40 yards per punt on five kicks.
The Chieftains (1-0 overall and 1-0 in the KVL) now will take on new Kaw Valley League member Bishop Ward at 7 p.m. Friday in Tonganoxie.
Bishop Ward improved to 1-0 after defeating Bishop
Miege, 21-17, last week.