Tonganoxie beats Atchison to extend season
By Adam Sullivan PrepsKC staff writer
The clock hasn’t struck midnight on the Tonganoxie football team just yet. They defeated Atchison 35-28 in the first round of the 4A State playoffs on Friday night.
“Every week nobody is talking about us, but our boys are believing in this program and starting to buy in,” Tonganoxie coach Al Troyer said. “We’re fine being the underdog, it fits us anyway.”
For Tonganoxie scoring came early and often. The Chieftains were able to score on their first three drives of the game jumping out to an early lead.
Their first drive took just four plays before running back Cole Holloway found the end zone on a 29-yard touchdown run putting Tonganoxie ahead 7-0 with 8:17 left in the first quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, Atchison return man Austin Housh broke free and returned it 70 yards tying things up at 7-7 with 8:01 left in the first quarter.
Tonganoxie would rely on their run game to keep the pressure on. In its second drive of the game it took again just four plays before Shane Levy rushed in from 18 yards out putting the Chieftains ahead 14-7.
After Atchison turned the ball over on downs the following drive, Tonganoxie took over at their own 16-yard line. Eight plays later on a drive led by Holloway and Levy, Tonganoxie found the end zone for the third straight time. Levy again bulldozed his way threw Atchison defenders 11 yards for the touchdown putting Tonganoxie ahead 21-7 at the end of the first quarter.
“Our two backs have led us so well lately, but really you have to look at our offensive line,” Troyer said. “Without the holes they provide we can’t run the ball.”
The second quarter would be a complete turnaround. Atchison controlled the third quarter and its first drive of the second quarter Atchison took just two plays as quarterback Tanner Huntington found Patrick Boos for a 25-yard touchdown closing the gap to 21-14 with 9:52 remaining in the half.
Atchison would get the ball back after a Tonganoxie turnover on downs, and the Redmen quickly went to work as the first play Huntington looked deep finding Wade Gassmann for a 62-yard pass tying things up at 21-21. Both teams would then trade punts to head into the half tied at 21.
Tonganoxie would pick up where they left off offensively to start the second half, their second drive of the half which took nine plays Levy found the end zone for his third time of the night on a four yard touchdown run giving Tonganoxie a 28-21 lead. Levy finished the night with 19 carries for 104 yards and three touchdowns. Holloway added 178 yards off 31 carries with one touchdown and one fumble.
The Chieftain defense would steal the show in the second half forcing three punts, and one turnover on downs including three sacks. This helped Tonganoxie’s offense get great field position. In the second half the Chieftains only started one drive outside of Atchison territory.
After forcing a punt Tonganoxie took over with 1:56 left in the third quarter from the Atchison 34 yard line. Five plays later and quarterback Tyler Ford hooked up with Ben Johnson on a 12-yard touchdown pass putting the Chieftains ahead 35-21 early in the fourth quarter. Ford finished the game 3-5 with 80 yards one touchdown, and one interception.
After both teams traded punts Atchison had the ball with 4:39 left in the game at their own 12 yard line still trailing 35-21. Facing a fourth and ten with their season on the line Huntington left it all on the field finding Jered Ross who shook free of Tonganoxie defenders and raced 89 yards for the touchdown making it a 35-28 game with 3:29 left in the game. Huntington finished the night 12-27 with 302 yards and three touchdowns.
Tonganoxie would take over after a failed onside kick at the Atchison 38 yard line. All they had to do was run out the clock or score right? Wrong as three plays later Tonganoxie tried to stun Atchison and end the game with a pass. Wade Gassmann keeping the Remens hopes alive however intercepted Fords pass at the one-yard line.
The Chieftains defense again would answer the call as they forced a four-play turnover on downs.
“Our defense has played unbelievably well the past few weeks and really have kept our season alive,” Troyer said.
Tonganoxie would take over and eventually run out the clock sealing a 35-28 win. However Atchison helped them out as on third and 10 the Redmen were called for back-to-back unsportsmanlike penalty calls giving the Chieftains a first down and allowing them to take a knee.
“I told our guys all week to keep their composure,” Troyer said. “We didn’t want our season to come down to us making a mental mistake.”
With the win Tonganoxie (5-5) moves on to meet Eudora (9-1) on Saturday
Speaking of the Cardinals Troyer had this to say, “We’ll have to match their physicality, and we’ll have to stop the run.”
After the victory Troyer led an emotional speech as the Tonganoxie students, and community surrounded the players. Troyer said, “This program is no longer just about football. We’re more than that now. We’re a family and this program is about building a community”.
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