Chieftains rumble to victory
Friday night the Tonganoxie Chieftains took the first step toward a return trip to the Class 4A playoffs with a convincing 28-12 win against Bonner Springs.
The Chieftains' offense out-gained the Braves 296 to 155 in total yards, and the defense did just enough to stifle a potentially potent Braves attack, en route to a hard-fought, physical victory in the district opener.
The win improved the Chieftains to 6-1 overall and dropped Bonner Springs to 2-5 overall and 2-4 in the Kaw Valley League.
"I felt good as far as our effort was concerned," THS coach Mark Elston said. "Our mental effort probably wasn't as good as it should have been."
Tonganoxie quarterback Jeff Hughes got things started on the right foot on both sides of the ball, Friday. Hughes, who also plays cornerback on defense, set the tone early on, as he intercepted a pass near midfield on the Braves' opening drive of the game. Two possessions later he raced 43 yards on an option play around outside for a touchdown that put Tonganoxie ahead, 7-0.
The Chieftains snagged the early lead thanks to a couple of fortunate breaks. After stalling on their first drive of the game, the Chieftains punted the ball to Bonner Springs sophomore Tyler Jock. Jock fielded the punt at the 25 and broke free down the far sideline for a 75-yard punt return touchdown. The special teams score, silenced the Tonganoxie crowd, but a flag -- for an illegal block -- nullified the touchdown and breathed new life into the Chieftains.
Hughes scored after the Tonganoxie defense stuffed the Braves on three straight plays, but the Chieftains failed to capitalize on their defensive stands.
A couple of late hit personal foul penalties aided a struggling Bonner Springs offense that gained just 60 yards in the first half. A muffed punt late in the first quarter set up the Braves' first score of the game.
But even after taking over first-and-ten at the Tonganoxie 19-yard line, the Chieftains' defense forced he Braves to try a field goal. Senior kicker Jon Baxter connected on a 32-yarder, and that cut the Tonganoxie lead to 7-3.
On the ensuing possession, Hughes, Daniel Volk and Brandon Willis marched the Chieftains down the field and into the end zone. Willis capped a 6-play, 72-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 14-3.
In the second half, Tonganoxie took the field looking for the knockout. It came in the form of a 9-play, 56-yard drive that spanned 3 minutes and 16 seconds. And it came in an unconventional manner. After marching the ball down the field, Tonganoxie had first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. As a Chieftain back plunged over the pile and into the end zone, the ball came loose. But Tonganoxie's Phil George was there to recover it and push the lead to 20-3.
Bonner Springs made things interesting when they scored on a 91-yard pass play from Jacob Nelson to Blake Kasselman two possessions later. The score cut the Tonganoxie lead to 20-10. It shrank further when on the next possession a high snap on a punt forced Hughes to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
"It was probably good for us to get in a pressure situation," Elston said. "Because we haven't been in one for three or four weeks. This week, we let our mistakes lose our control. We had to step up and play."
After a free kick, the Braves took the ball at the 35 and penetrated Tonganoxie's side of the field on the first play. From there, though, the Chieftains' defense stiffened, and Bonner Springs did not gain a single yard for the game's final 11 minutes of the game.
Willis tacked on his second touchdown of the game with 1:58 to play. He took the handoff, bounced outside once, bounced outside twice and was gone, 29 yards to pay dirt.
On the next possession, Tonganoxie recorded a safety when Nelson was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
THS, now 6-1 overall and 1-0 in district play, will take on De Soto, which lost to Perry-Lecompton, 31-7, last week.
Elston said he was relieved his team won its first district game.
"If you don't get a win in the first one, your back is against the wall so much for the next two games," Elston said. "If we can take care of Friday night, we're guaranteed a playoff spot. It eliminates a lot of worries. You just go out and play."
Tonganoxie has piled up plenty of yards this fall and several players are contributing.
Tonganoxie has gained 1,630 yards on the ground. Jeff Hughes leads the team with 431 rushing yards, while Brandon Willis has 429 and Daniel Volk 387.
At quarterback, Hughes has completed 22 of 43 passes for 316 yards. He also has four touchdowns.
Tyler Miles leads receivers with 190 yards on 18 catches and three touchdowns.
On the line, Kent Fleming has 30 pancake blocks.
Overall, the Chieftains have accumulated more than 2,000 yards of total offense.
Defensively, the Chieftains have given up just 335 yards on the ground. Opponents have carried the ball 201 times. Overall the defense has allowed about 900 yards.
Defensively, Matt Drake and Hughes lead the team with three interceptions each.
Although totals weren't available, Seth Lloyd and Bryan Morris lead the team in quarterback sacks.
Leading tacklers are Aaron Adcox and Alan Athon.
Tonganoxie 28, Bonner Springs 12
Score by quarters
Bonner Springs 0 3 7 2 -- 12
Tonganoxie 7 7 6 8 -- 28
How they scored
T -- Jeff Hughes 12 run (Jeff Hughes kick)
BS -- John Baxter 24 field goal
T -- Brandon Willis 6 run (Hughes kick)
T -- Phil George fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed)
BS -- team safety
T -- Willis 30 run (kick failed)
T -- team safety