Special teams X-factor in Tonganoxie’s road defeat
Basehor If Tonganoxie High could take any positives from its difficult football season, Friday night's game at Basehor-Linwood offered countless examples.
The Chieftains produced 205 more yards of total offense than Basehor. THS stuffed Basehor's run and made its passing game look non-existent.
Tonganoxie still lost, 26-14.
How does that add up?
Answer: special teams.
Basehor's Travis Inlow created a special teams highlight reel by taking punt returns of 83 and 70 yards past the Tonganoxie coverage for touchdowns.
"We weren't very good mentally tonight and that cost us the ball game," THS coach Mark Elston said. "It wasn't physical."
Inlow gave Basehor a 15-0 lead in the second quarter with the 83-yard return. The senior didn't look like he was going to return the punt at first. After the ball bounced in the air, Inlow took the ball in stride at his own 17-yard line and flew past the THS defenders down the left sideline.
His second return occurred in the third quarter and put Basehor ahead, 23-0. Inlow received blocks along the right sideline and was gone again for another touchdown.
Tonganoxie (1-5) made the game interesting, though, particularly after Inlow's second score.
Senior running back Kevin Gill had arguably the most acrobatic run of the night. Gill ran around the right side of the THS offensive line and broke through to the second level of Basehor's defense -- he appeared to be down. Out of nowhere, Gill kept his feet and broke free in front of his raucous teammates on the sideline encouraging the effort. The end result was a 62-yard touchdown run.
Gill had 125 yards and a score on 13 carries. He left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. Gill sat on the sideline for the remainder of the game with his left shoulder wrapped in ice.
"He played his guts out," Elston said. "He's got a separated shoulder. He's got a cracked rib and he's out there digging. On his touchdown run, everybody thought he was down after a three or four-yard gain, but he came out of there. You can't ask for anything more out of the kid than that."
Senior Gabe Belobrajdic stepped up with Tonganoxie's most productive offensive weapon on the sidelines.
A few series after a Basehor field goal, with 3:51 remaining in the game, Tonganoxie cut the lead to 26-14 with a 60-yard pass from freshman Jeremy Carlisle to Belobrajdic.
On the score, Belobrajdic was tied up with a BLHS defender on the left sideline but provided separation with a swim move before the catch.
Belobrajdic had his way with the Basehor secondary. The senior caught six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
"They had their second string in and had loose coverage, knowing that we were going to pass," Elston said. "They weren't getting heat on the quarterback like they got earlier. We were having mental mistakes with picking up blitzers and running routes, but once we got that figured out, we were able to throw the ball."
Tonganoxie simply ran out of time. On a fourth-and-goal from the BLHS eight yard-line, Carlisle found Belobrajdic in the left corner, but he was a yard shy of the goal line. Basehor (2-4) took over on downs and ran the clock out.
Tonganoxie will play host to Perry-Lecompton (5-1) Friday in the first week of district play. THS will play host to Atchison on Oct. 19, then finish out the regular season and district play at Jefferson West.