Still perfect after Piper
Hughes boots winning kick with 2.8 ticks left in thriller
There was no need to break out the Saturn Missiles, Black Cats or Roman Candles this year.
Plenty of fireworks exploded on the field Friday in Piper.
Tonganoxie and Piper met for a rematch of last year's district game that saw premature fireworks shot off east of Beatty Field -- before Piper scored in the final seconds of regulation and again in overtime for a 17-14 win.
This season, the roles were reversed.
On Homecoming night in Piper where parked cars lined the highway east of the PHS campus, a full house watched as the two Kaw Valley League foes did battle.
Tonganoxie drew first blood as Zach Ditty scampered into the end zone on a 78-yard run on Tonganoxie's second play from scrimmage.
But Piper would strike back. The pass-happy Pirates scored on a 5-yard pass in the second quarter from Garrett Weddle to Alex Angelotti. In the third quarter, Piper took the lead on a 60-yard bomb from Weddle to Chris Shannon.
Tonganoxie, however, would control the rest of the second half.
THS ran 44 plays in the second half; Piper had 12.
The Chieftains tied the game with 10:37 left in the contest on Zach Ditty's 2-yard run.
With 4:13 left, Tonganoxie appeared to be assembling its game-winning drive. Starting the drive on the Piper 46, Tonganoxie drove to the Piper 8 when Sam Mitchell fumbled the ball and Piper recovered on its own 11. Mitchell actually had a 62-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but it was called back because of a penalty.
With fewer than two minutes left in the game, Piper took over, but incomplete passes and Tonganoxie timeouts forced Piper to punt on fourth and six from the Pirates' own 15.
The Chieftains then had 35.6 seconds left to score from the Piper 45.
On first down, THS quarterback Ross Starcher threw to the sideline to Tyler Miles. With the catch, Miles got the first down and made it out of bounds. A week before, Miles, was inches short on a fourth-down completion near the goal line. On Friday, Miles produced a key completion in Tonganoxie's final drive. Two plays later, quarterback Ross Starcher scampered for 20 yards to the Piper 15.
That set up Jeff Hughes for a game-winning field goal attempt with seven seconds remaining.
Hughes sent the ball through the uprights with 2.9 seconds left on the clock for the 17-14 win. The Chieftain sideline immediately erupted into a state of pandemonium with its fans across the field in the west section of the Piper bleachers.
"I knew it was good as soon as it hit my foot," Hughes said, noting he could hear the crowd chanting "Jeff! Jeff! Jeff!"
More importantly for Hughes, it was a situation the young place-kicker had cooking in his head years ago when his father, Steve Hughes, coached the Chieftains and Jeff was just a grade-schooler on the sidelines.
"Since I was 7-years-old and Dad coached the team, I've waited my whole life for this," Hughes said.
On Friday, Tonganoxie again relied on its running game. The Chieftains amassed 293 yards against the Pirates, who had 196 passing yards, but ran the ball 26 times for 16 yards. THS had 12 yards passing.
Starcher led all rushers with 19 carries for 127 yards. Zach Ditty had 10 carries for 106 yards, while Sam Mitchell compiled nine carries for 32 yards.
Mitchell also had an interception, while Kent Fleming registered a fumble recovery.
Now 3-0, Tonganoxie is sitting in a familiar place compared to last season. The 2003 THS squad went six games before losing its first and only regular season game -- to Piper.
With most of last year's offense lost to graduation, this year's edition of Tonganoxie football wasn't expected to get off to such a strong start. But as THS coach Mark Elston told his players after the game, the season is far from finished.
"All we've done is guaranteed a 3-6 season and I'm not going to be satisfied with 3-6," Elston told his players.
Tonganoxie will be back home Friday against Mill Valley. The Jaguars are 2-1 on the season after dropping Basehor-Linwood last Friday.
Tonganoxie's stingy run defense will have a handful this week with brothers David and Justin Woods in the Mill Valley backfield.
"It will be quite the test for us," Elston said.
Players from the Tonganoxie and Piper teams met at midfield to shake hands after Friday's game, but tempers flared before the salutations could take place and coaches moved players back to their respective sidelines. Other coaches from both teams met on the field, but shouting broke out there before the coaches eventually went their separate ways.
An in-depth story on the post-game incident is on page 2A of today's edition of The Mirror.
¢ Brandon Willis likely played in his final game as a junior Friday. The fullback damaged his MCL in one of his knees and possibly has a torn ACL. Elston said the best-case scenario would be that Willis could return for the final regular season game or the playoffs, if the Chieftains qualified for the postseason.
¢ Fellow fullback B.T. Fleming is still out nursing a knee injury, but he could return in two weeks, Elston said.
Tonganoxie 17, Piper 14
THS (3-0, 3-0) 7 0 0 10 -- 17
PHS (2-1, 2-1) 0 7 7 0 -- 14
T -- Zach Ditty 78 run (Jeff Hughes kick)
P -- Alex Angelotti 5 pass from Garrett Weddle (Chris Kubicki kick)
P -- Chris Shannon 60 pass from Weddle (Kubicki kick)
T -- Ditty 2 run (Hughes kick)
T -- Hughes 28 FG