Chieftains earn fifth straight playoff berth
Jefferson West was no match for Jeff Hughes and the Tonganoxie Chieftains on Thursday night in Tonganoxie.
Hughes rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another as the Chieftains rolled to a 42-7 victory. The senior quarterback had 12 carries for a whopping 243 yards.
"I was real excited the way our offense played because we hadn't played up to our capability against Atchison," Elston said. "We probably played the best we did offensively."
The win locked up a runner-up finish in district play and made Tonganoxie playoff-eligible for the fifth consecutive season.
With the victory, Tonganoxie advanced to a Class 4A bi-district playoff game Tuesday against Holton in Holton.
A report from that game can be found on page 1A of today's edition of The Mirror.
Holton earned a first-round home game by outlasting Clay Center, 21-6, Thursday in Clay Center. That game started about 80 minutes after its scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff because of a power outage. HHS, the defending 4A state champions, finished with a perfect 9-0 regular season, while Clay Center fell to 8-1.
In Tonganoxie, the Chieftains (8-1) took an early lead against Jeff West when Daniel Volk capped a 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run up the middle. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Chieftains led 6-0 with 8:28 left in the first quarter.
Jeff West answered with an 11-play, 60-yard drive that gobbled up six minutes of clock. Matt Eddington's one-yard plunge up the middle tied the game. Nick Polamari's extra point put Jeff West ahead 7-6 with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
"Defensively we didn't play our best game, but we made plays when we had to, which is the mark of a pretty good defense," Elston said.
Jeff West marched into the red zone -- inside the Tonganoxie 20 -- three other times, but the Tigers came away with no points on any of those possessions.
In addition, Jeff West's lead lasted all of 36 seconds. That's how long it took for the Chieftains to respond. Hughes ran an option play to the right, tucked the ball away and darted 48 yards to the endzone. He then completed a pass to Zeb Kissinger for the two-point conversion that made it 14-7.
Tonganoxie's lead wasn't safe yet. Jeff West pounded up the middle and marched all the way to the THS four-yard-line before fumbling. Kissinger, however, recovered the ball and thwarted the threat.
D.J. Gray added a six-yard touchdown run up the middle with one minute left in the second quarter. Tonganoxie took the 20-7 cushion into the locker room at the half.
Gray was healthy for the first time since playing in the first game of the year.
"He's got vision and he's got a sense of where defenders are coming from and that's a dimension we've not had for seven weeks," Elston said about Gray, who has battled injury. "He also puts a lot more speed in the backfield."
The Chieftain defense sent a statement on the first possession of the second half by forcing a quick three-and-out. The offense then milked five minutes of clock with a 16-play, 49-yard drive in which all but two plays were on the ground. One of the passing plays was a two-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Miles in the corner of the endzone. Volk rushed for the two-point conversion.
Suddenly THS led 28-7 with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
Hughes added touchdown runs of 78 and 41 yards in the fourth quarter that forced the final margin of victory. Volk led the defense with two interceptions and Derek Parrett added two sacks.
Parrett led the team in tackles with 10, while Wes Armstrong, Zeb Kissinger and Daniel Volk had nine. Justin McDaniel tallied eight sacks against Jeff West.
Bryan Morris, who leads the team in tackles behind the line with 13, did not play Thursday. Elston said the senior was out because of disciplinary reasons. But, Elston said Tuesday morning that Morris was scheduled to return to action for the playoffs.
For more on this year's 4A playoffs, log on to www.tonganoxiemirror.com.
-- Shawn Linenberger contributed to this story.