Piper penalty ignites THS in 32-7 rout
One little yellow flag.
That's all Tonganoxie needed to turn a deficit into a convincing victory against Piper on Friday at Beatty Field. The Chieftains trailed, 7-0, in the second quarter when the Pirates connected on a long play-action pass for an apparent touchdown. Piper appeared to have prime momentum and a two-touchdown lead, but PHS was whistled for a holding penalty. That put the Pirates into third-and-long. On the next play, Piper tried to run the ball, but fumbled and THS recovered in Piper territory.
The Chieftains turned that fumble into a touchdown. And they never looked back.
Tonganoxie won its home opener, 32-7, and improved to 2-1 on the season.
"We played the way I expect us to play -- hard-nosed, tough," THS coach Mark Elston said. "We put some fear into people when they had the ball.
"Our running backs did a real good job of putting their heads down and punishing people and not dancing around."
Brandon Willis was one of those running backs who also made some thunderous blocks offensively and a handful of tackles.
"He stepped up to play," Elston said. "During the week in practice he decided to step it up a little bit."
Elston said the fall-like temperatures Friday helped Willis and fellow teammates who play both sides of the ball. Those players had more energy in the cooler weather.
229 yards of offense
Willis had one of Tonganoxie's five touchdowns. Daniel Volk, who led the team in rushing with 69 yards, had two touchdowns, as did Jeff Hughes. On offense, Hughes scored on a quarterback sneak from 1 yard out for Tonganoxie's first touchdown. Hughes, a junior, also scored the Chieftains final touchdown -- a 36-yard interception return on defense.
Tonganoxie had 229 yards of total offense, while Piper posted 164 yards. Each team had 76 yards of passing offense. Piper is known more for passing, and Tonganoxie is more run-oriented. Tonganoxie, however, kept some drives going, thanks to big passes to receivers, most notably Tyler Miles, who on one occasion leaped high in the air to bring down a pass from Hughes while fending off two defenders inside Piper's 20-yard-line.
The teams were tied at seven at halftime, but Tonganoxie orchestrated an 18-point third quarter and pulled away from the Pirates. In the second half, Piper was in Tonganoxie territory when PHS quarterback Beau Beashore threw a pass to a receiver near the goal line on the Piper sideline. The pass, though, was deflected and fell into the hands of Tonganoxie linebacker Phil George, who rumbled down the sideline more than 50 yards into Tonganoxie territory.
George, accustomed to his role on the rarely publicized offensive line, was all smiles after Friday's game.
"Linemen are not supposed to run that far, that fast," George said with a chuckle. "That's all right, I took one for the team."
George's "sacrifice" helped Tonganoxie deflate a Piper offense looking for momentum and led to a big victory for the Chieftains.
Help from the sideline
Elston categorized the victory as a complete team effort, not only from the 11 players on the field, but the rest of the team on the sideline.
"The sideline kids got into it," Elston said. "It's the first time I really had the feeling of a team on the sideline."
The victory pushed Tonganoxie's record to 2-1 overall and 2-1 in the Kaw Valley League. Piper fell to 1-2 overall and 1-2 in the KVL.
Tonganoxie will look for its third consecutive victory Friday in Shawnee against Mill Valley, but the Chieftains will be playing without key players on the line.
Center Ryan Bennett broke his foot against Piper and could be out for the season.
Derek Parrett, who suffered a broken bone in his shoulder the week before against Bishop Ward, also could miss considerable time.
Tonganoxie's defense, which has been the calling card of the team early this season, will have a challenge against Mill Valley. The Jaguars feature standout David Woods in their backfield.
"The Woods kid could be one of the three fastest backs in the state," Elston said.
Kickoff for Friday's game will be 7 p.m.