THS stumbles against Atchison
It didn't take long for Andre Harris to make the Tonganoxie High football team grow tired of him.
The THS defensive frustration: Harris, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound wide receiver for Atchison, grabbed a rainbow-looking pass out of the air and sprinted 55 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive.
The THS special teams frustration: Harris then took a punt around the left side of the wall set up by his blockers and made his way to the end zone.
This was only the first quarter of trying to contain Harris, in the midst of Tonganoxie's 42-20 loss to Atchison on Friday night.
"They have one heck of a player in number 84," THS coach Mark Elston said of Harris. "We don't have anyone that matches up with that kid."
It didn't help that the Chieftains had injured players in the secondary. Senior cornerback Isiah Sawyer hurt his ribs and didn't play much defense. Senior Kevin Gill, who plays safety for THS, has had shoulder problems for the entire year. He only played offense.
As a result, Tonganoxie inserted Gabe Belobrajdic into the cornerback position because he is one of the Chieftains best athletes. The senior played admirably, but he never played cornerback before Friday night. He's typically on the defensive line.
In fact, THS double-teamed Harris for the majority of the night. It didn't stop him.
"We were pretty confident we could stop the run against them," Elston said. "We designed our defense to stop number 84. We put two people on him all night and their quarterback put the ball right on the money a couple of times and they made some big plays."
The only mistake Harris made all night was actually during his first touchdown reception. On his way to the end zone, Harris turned around and taunted the THS secondary, earning the Redmen a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff.
He scored two more times and immediately handed the football to the referee after both scores. Harris finished the night with five receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He totaled three touchdowns with the punt return.
Atchison jumped out to a 21-0 lead, but Tonganoxie didn't let the game get out of hand in the first half. The Chieftains started their first scoring drive on their own 13-yard line.
Sawyer had a 29-yard run and freshman quarterback Jeremy Carlisle made a Houdini-like 53-yard run down the right sideline. Many Atchison defenders were sold on Carlisle handing the ball off to one of his running backs. Carlisle suddenly escaped a pile of AHS players and ran down the right sideline.
Four plays later, Carlisle put Tonganoxie on the board with a four-yard score.
After forcing an Atchison turnover on downs, Tonganoxie ran seven plays before Gill cut the deficit to seven with a 14-yard touchdown. The run certainly wasn't graceful, either. Gill bulldozed through a player from the AHS secondary on his way to the goal line.
"We just didn't want to give up," senior offensive lineman Tyler Gurss said. "Going into halftime, I really thought we had it."
THS trailed 21-14 at the half, but carried two straight scores worth of momentum into the intermission.
"It could have been really easy for us to fold and get beat, 56-0," Elston said. "I told them it doesn't take any effort to get beat, 56-0. It doesn't take any intestinal fortitude or anything. But it takes some gumption to come back from getting blitzed by points so quickly and put yourself back in a position to be successful."
Tonganoxie just couldn't stop the pass. Atchison senior quarterback Drew Rivers was 9-for-13 with 220 yards and three touchdowns.
Tonganoxie (1-7) will finish the regular season Thursday at Jefferson West (3-5). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Chieftains will miss the playoffs this season because they've already lost two district games. Perry-Lecompton and Atchison have already won two district games and clinched playoff berths.
"Our focus is just to get some pride and finish out the year strong," Gurss said. "It's the last game of the year and one of the most important things. It's all about pride."