Chieftains set new team records in 2006 season
Tonganoxie didn't advance as far in the playoffs as it did the last two seasons, but the Chieftains posted bigger numbers than it had before in the Mark Elston era.
This fall, the Chieftains racked up 3,574 yards of total offense.
The top previous total was 3,474 from the 2003 squad that went 9-2.
"I think that's the best we've had," said Elston, who just completed his seventh season at THS.
The 2004 team had 3,334 yards, while the 2005 team had 2,763 total yards.
As far as scoring touchdowns, the 2006 squad also had the most offensive touchdowns with 43. The 2003 team was close behind with 39, while the 2004 squad scored 35 offensive touchdowns. The 2005 team had 24 touchdowns.
A major contributor to those stats was senior quarterback Jeff Hughes, who rushed for 1,156 yards on 163 carries.
Jeff Hughes surpassed Ross Starcher as the top single-season rushing quarterback under Elston. Hughes rushed for 1,080 yards in the regular season, while Starcher rushed for 1,068. Just 12 yards separated the two quarterbacks, although Starcher had 45 fewer carries (147 for Hughes to 102 for Starcher).
With the playoff game included, Hughes had 1,156 yards on the season with 165 carries.
Hughes also racked up the most passing yardage in a single season for a quarterback in Elston's seven years at THS. Hughes threw for 850 yards, while Justin Walker threw for 660 passing yards in 2003.
Other statistics for Hughes this fall included completing 50 of 83 passes on the year, nine of which were for touchdowns. Hughes also threw three interceptions and converted two two-point conversions.
Other top offensive players were Daniel Volk with 782 rushing yards on 160 carries and Kevin Gill with 464 ushing yards on 82 carries.
In the receiving department, Tyler Miles had 396 yards with 23 catches, while Zeb Kissinger accumulated 265 yards with 15 catches.
Defensively, Tonganoxie held opponents to 1,239 rushing yards on the season and 835 passing yards on the year.
Kissinger led the team in assisted tackles in the regular season with 50, while Derek Parrett and Bryan Morris each had 24 solo tackles, which led the team in that category. Kissinger also had 22 solo tackles.
Volk led the team in interceptions with five, while Volk and Hughes each had three.
Tonganoxie, which finished the season at 8-2 and won the Kaw Valley League title outright, now has won at least eight games for four straight seasons. In addition, the team has lost just two games each of those seasons.
"We've had four years in a row that we've had a real solid class of kids and a real good number of seniors," Elston said. "I believe we've had at least nine seniors every year. That makes a world of difference as opposed to two or three."
Elston also pointed to expectations as being "good positive pressure." He said every year, the team, and more specifically the senior class, wants to maintain the win total, if not increase it.
"The class below them has something to prove," Elston said, referring to each year's incoming senior class.
Familiarity with the defensive and offensive schemes also is a plus, as schemes don't change much each year.
"Defensively Tuesday night was the first night we changed anything defensively for seven years," Elston said, referring to the Oct. 31 game at Holton. HHS won the game, 20-0.
Next season, the Chieftains will have to replace a senior class that had a whopping 13 players, many of whom played several minutes of both offense and defense for the Chieftains.
Next year, Eslton hopes to start several different players on offense and defense.
"Looking at our roster, we have the potential to start 17, 18, 19 different kids, so hopefully kids step up like we plan on," Elston said. "We've been forced to play so many guys both ways, which in the beginning, we'll look a little rough around the edges, but in the long run, we'll be outstanding.
"Just on paper we could start as many as 18 different kids out of the 22, which would be enormous for us."
Elston was referring to the number of total spots for offense and defense -- 11 on both sides of the ball.
Coach nearing milestone
If Tonganoxie could have defeated Holton in the first round of the playoffs last week, Elston would have hit a milestone in wins.
Elston stands at 49-21 in seven seasons at THS. The Chieftain coach has not suffered a losing season during that time. His worst record was 5-5 in 2002, the same year he guided THS to the Class 4A playoffs for the first time.
"Fifty wins will be great, but 49.95 of those are because of the assistant coaches and the players," Elston said. "We've got the best assistant coaching staff there is, bar none. My assistant coaches are by far better than anybody could dream of."
Elston also praised players and parents.
"And when you've got dedicated kids and kids who are ready to listen to those coaches, the end result is success," Elston said. "And it also takes the parents being dedicated and making sure kids are where they need to be when they need to be there.
"When you combine those things, you can be successful. When you miss any of those, it becomes a struggle."