Over the river and through the Woods
Tonganoxie defense holds top Mill Valley running back to 26 yards in 39-0 shellacking
It was billed as a showdown between two of the Kaw Valley League's elite teams, but Friday's game between Tonganoxie and Mill Valley was anything but competitive.
From the game's opening kickoff until the final horn sounded, Tonganoxie controlled the Jaguars on both sides of the ball and spoiled Mill Valley's homecoming with a lopsided 39-0 victory.
Tonganoxie (3-1 overall and 3-1 in the Kaw Valley League) pounded the ball against Mill Valley's undersized defensive line with its patented wishbone formation and ground their way to an astounding 385 rushing yards on 64 carries against the hapless Jaguars (2-2 overall and 2-1 in the KVL).
Chieftain running back Brandon Willis led the way for his team with 120 rushing yards, but it seemed every Tonganoxie ball carrier was successful against Mill Valley's fatigued defense on Friday night.
Tonganoxie had eight players carry the ball. While Willis led the team in rushing, seven other players were responsible for 260 yards on the ground.
"That's a great sign when you don't have to rely on one kid," THS coach Mark Elston said. "When you can spread 380 yards over eight kids, that's an extremely exciting figure for a coach."
THS also had 75 passing yards.
Tonganoxie punted just once Friday and scored all of their points in the first three quarters in a dominating offensive effort that left Mill Valley's fans with little to cheer about in what they had hoped would be a big homecoming game victory.
"We knew offensively we needed to control the ball," Elston said. "And we had practiced fairly well all week, so we knew we could move the ball on them."
Equally impressive on the night was Tonganoxie's defense, which held Mill Valley's run-oriented offense at bay throughout the game and never allowed the Jaguars to break the long runs that have been their forte all season.
Mill Valley's heralded junior tailback, Justin Woods, was unable to utilize his speed and never got on track against Tonganoxie's defense.
Woods was averaging 170 yards a game and scored all but one of Mill Valley's touchdowns heading into Friday's game.
Tonganoxie, though, limited Woods to 26 yards and no touchdowns on the soggy Mill Valley field.
"Our scout squad did a great job of simulating Mill Valley's offense," Elston said about last week's preparations. "Our scout squad really practiced hard.
THS held Mill Valley to 113 yards of total offense -- 48 of which was on the ground.
Tonganoxie's defensive line proved to be too physical for Mill Valley and exploited the Jaguars offense for what it has appeared to be all season --one-dimensional.
Not once was the Jaguars offensive line able to get a push up front, and the Chieftains forced Woods to stretch out the pitch play. That allowed linebackers to move in and tackle Woods.
At halftime, Elston told his players that the defensive line was playing well against the Jaguars.
"We made a comment at halftime that the linebackers' jerseys were relatively clean because the defensive line was stopping everything and kept people off the linebackers," Elston said. "Not that our linebackers weren't playing well, but plays were being made before they got to the linebackers."
Without their running game working, Mill Valley looked lost. Once they were forced to play catch-up and throw the football with their backup quarterback, Paul Mees, the game was all but decided.
In four meetings between the two schools, the road team has won each year in what had been a tightly contested game each season. This year, though, THS knotted the overall series at 2-2.
It was a resounding victory for the Chieftains on Friday, and one that should do wonders for their confidence as they head into the thick of league play.
Meanwhile, there is great reason for concern in the Jaguars camp.
The 39-0 defeat not only was the worst league loss in school history, the Chieftains also exposed the Jaguars greatest weaknesses -- lack of size and an ineffective inside running game.
Now heading into Week 4, both teams still are in the race for the league title, but after Friday night's game, it appeared that only the Chieftains have a viable shot at the Kaw Valley League crown.
Tonganoxie will play at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Santa Fe Trail in the Chieftains' homecoming game.
"They're extremely big up front and extremely quick in the backfield," Elston said. "They've had the lead in every ball game."
Santa Fe Trail is 1-3 on the season, but the Chargers led undefeated Perry-Lecompton last week by two touchdowns late in the game. The Kaws, though, rallied in the final quarter for a 28-27 win.
Tonganoxie 39, Mill Valley 0
Score by quarters
Tonganoxie 7 20 12 0 --9
Mill Valley 0 0 0 0 -- 0
How they scored
THS -- Brandon Willis 25 run (Jeff Hughes kick)
THS -- Hughes 2 run (Hughes kick)
THS -- Hughes 2 run (Hughes kick)
THS -- Willis 2 run (kick failed)
THS -- Willis 20 run (run failed)
THS -- Tyler Miles 18 pass from Hughes (kick failed)