Smith: Chieftains good enough for playoffs
Tonganoxie High had a playoff football team this year.
Maybe not according to KSHSAA’s districts, but as far as this columnist is concerned, the Chieftains were good enough to be in the postseason in 2009.
Sure, THS lost all three of its district games, but those losses were to three quality opponents with winning records — Basehor-Linwood, Piper and Bishop Ward — by a combined 11 points.
The Chieftains went 5-4 overall thanks to their difficult district draw, and one game over .500 is far from jaw-dropping, but look at the Class 4A tournament bracket: seven teams with losing records made the playoffs thanks to unimpressive districts and each one lost (most were pounded) in the first round.
Baldwin (2-8) lost 62-0 to Bishop Miege.
Concordia (2-8) lost 54-0 to Andale.
Augusta (2-8) lost 45-0 to Rose Hill.
De Soto (4-6) lost 28-0 to Eudora.
Clearwater (3-7) lost 35-12 to Hugoton.
Rock Creek (3-7) lost 34-13 to Abilene.
Andover-Central (4-6) lost 25-13 to Andover.
Meanwhile, Tonganoxie sat at home.
Anyone who witnessed the 2009 Chieftains, who outscored opponents 309-167 this season, knows Tonganoxie would have played much better than those losing teams.
Tonganoxie wouldn’t have rolled over and died against a higher-ranked opponent. The Chieftains were too tough, too fast, too determined. Their four losses were by a combined 14 points with seven being the largest margin.
Can you imagine Jeremy Carlisle not scrambling to make plays, DJ Lindsay not busting long sweeps up the sidelines, Jeremie Maus and Austen Holloway not pounding the rock up the gut, Dylan Faulconer not snagging long passes and the Chieftains being blown out in a playoff game?
Of course not.
Would Jason Espeland stop shedding blockers, Maus stop blitzing like a maniac, Shawn Marin stop swatting away passes, Dane Gonser stop battling in the trenches, Jeff Sims stop making plays, Tucker Hollingsworth and Justin Jacobs stop hustling, Jonas Myers stop improving, with the electricity of a playoff atmosphere?
Not even feasible.
Half of the 64 teams in Class 4A qualify for the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean the 32 that get invited are the most deserving.
There’s no perfect way to designate the top 32 teams for the playoffs. Districts are a solid system and get most of the programs that belong in the postseason.
Inevitably, a handful of teams every year will see a winning season come to an end without the prestige of a playoff appearance.
That doesn’t make the season a failure.
The Tonganoxie football team was full of winners — playoffs or no playoffs.