Hayden ends THS season
Tonganoxie's defense forced Hayden to punt after the Wildcats' first possession Saturday at Beatty Field.
The early defensive stand gave Tonganoxie a sliver of momentum.
But the Chieftain offense just couldn't get anything going against the defending Class 4A state champion. And eventually, Hayden's offense wore down the Tonganoxie defense on the Wildcats' way to a 41-0 playoff victory.
Hayden, which entered the game with a 24-game winning streak, scored first with 6:36 left in the first quarter. Hayden's John O'Grady scored after the Wildcats blocked a Chieftain punt. He ran the ball in from 10 yards out for the touchdown. The Wildcats scored again with 2:07 left in the second quarter when Jeremy Harris scored on a 28-yard pass from Chris Dieker.
Hayden's next score came in the second quarter on a 2-yard run and the Wildcats had a 21-0 halftime lead.
Tonganoxie looked to stop Hayden on defense in the first series of the second half, but O'Grady returned the opening kickoff 95 yards and the Wildcats increased their lead to 28-0.
The eventual 41-0 score marked the first time Tonganoxie was shut out since November 2003 when Atchison defeated Tonganoxie, 39-0, in the first round of the playoffs that year.
"They're a darn good team," THS coach Mark Elston said about Hayden. "They're better than last year."
Elston was proud of his defense, but the Chieftains just couldn't get out of some tough situations.
In addition to the blocked punt returned for a touchdown, the Chieftains were on their own 10-yard line during their next possession.
"We played very well defensively in the first half, but we put ourselves in such poor positions," Elston said.
The Tonganoxie coach said Hayden's biggest advantage was its depth. The Wildcats had about 40 players to substitute in, while the Chieftains had 14.
"We were overmatched," Elston said. "Physically, there was only so much we could do."
The run-oriented Chieftains, who had plenty of success running the ball throughout the season, were limited to 69 yards on the ground. They also had 107 passing yards. The Chieftains made some big plays during the night, but couldn't string enough of them together for any scores.
"I thought we played hard," THS senior lineman Kent Fleming said. "That's all you can ask, to play your hardest."
Fellow senior lineman Jeff Frank, who like the rest of the THS offensive line was accustomed to helping open up holes for Tonganoxie running backs, said the team just couldn't get anything going against Hayden.
"We came in here thinking we could move the ball, but honestly, I don't have an answer," Frank said. "I don't know what happened."
Although it was a tough loss to take for Tonganoxie, Saturday put an end to another successful Tonganoxie season.
The Chieftains, for the third straight season, finished the regular season at 8-1. And for the second straight year, THS was 9-2 with a district title to its credit. For the second time in three years, Tonganoxie claimed a share of the Kaw Valley League title.
Frank said the team played well together this season.
The offensive lineman especially was proud of how the team ran the ball this fall.
"We (the line) opened up the holes and the backs ran through them," Frank said. "There was no standout. It was a team effort this year."
After losing the first game of the season to Lansing, 14-10, after squandering a late fourth-quarter lead, the Chieftains came back to win nine straight games before bowing out to Hayden in the playoffs.
Elston said he was proud of how his team played during the season.
"As far as the season's concerned, we improved dramatically from week 2 to week 3," Elston said.
Tonganoxie had 11 seniors wear Chieftain uniforms for the final time Saturday. Fleming, Frank, Matt Drake, Phil George, Brandon Willis, Thomas Hopkins, Chris Ridihalgh, Aaron Adcox, Alan Athon, Seth Lloyd and Ryan Bennett all were seniors this season.
Hayden, now 11-0, will play Fort Scott at 7 p.m. Friday in Topeka in the state sectionals.
Tonganoxie 18, Bishop Ward 14
THS used some fourth-quarter magic to advance to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Trailing Bishop Ward, 14-0, early in the fourth quarter, Daniel Volk scored once and Willis twice as the Chieftains pulled out the victory Nov. 1 at Beatty Field.
With the Chieftains trailing 14-12, Willis broke several tackles for a 55-yard touchdown run that put the Chieftains up for good and electrified the Tonganoxie crowd.