Piper makes history with win over Chanute
By Ian Stanford PrepsKC staff writer
Piper rewrote program history again Friday night. After becoming Class 4A regional champs for the first time last week, the Pirates followed it up by advancing to the semi-finals with a thrilling 24-22 win over Chanute.
They did it for the second straight week without the full services of their lightning-quick running back, senior Mike McDonald.
“We’ve got Colton Beebe and Paul Jones [who both picked up the slack]. The offensive line has been working hard too, we’re senior-heavy there,” Piper Coach Brindle said.
Overcoming McDonald’s injury took a recipe of tenacious running from the other backs, more passing from junior quarterback Tanner Eikenbary, stellar defensive line play, and a timely trick play too.
It was just enough for Piper to advance. Chanute had multiple chances to tie it late. A 70-yard touchdown drive cut the lead to 24-22 with six minutes left. Chanute would’ve been able to tie it with an extra point, but a bad snap on an extra point try in the first half meant they were down two points instead of one.
Blue Comet quarterback Brock Gilmore’s two-point conversion pass fell to the ground in the end zone.
Chanute had one final chance a few minutes later, but turned it over on four plays.
Piper 24, Chanute 22.
“We’re playing great football right now,” said Piper quarterback Tanner Eikenbary. “Everyone has picked up their game and is doing their job.”
Piper will play Eudora next Saturday. Eudora beat the Pirates in week one, 25-7. The key question will be whether McDonald is at 100 percent.
“I think I will be,” said the senior speedster. Coach Brindle said the same.
McDonald played limited snaps in the second half on both offense and defense after he tweaked a groin last week against Baldwin.
The role players stepped up big in his absence. The Pirates started the scoring on a 64-yard pass touchdown to Paul Jones on Piper’s second drive midway through the first quarter.
Chanute got their first points after a Piper fumble set them up inside the 50. They drove to the 20, but had to settle for a field goal that made it 7-3 at the beginning of the second quarter.
Chanute had the field position advantage in the first half. After the field goal, they pinned Piper deep, forced a three-and-out, and then got the ball back inside the 50 for the second straight drive. Gilmore dinked and dunked Chanute down the field. Chanute scored on a five-yard run that gave the Comets a 10-7 lead with six minutes left in the half.
The teams traded punts before Piper got the ball with two minutes left. That’s when Brindle pulled out the bag of tricks. On the first play of the drive, Brindle called a reverse toss that gave Dion Saunders the ball with a chance to reverse field.
“I saw the green and I knew I had to go,” said Saunders, who teammates call Primetime because of the name similarity to Deion Sanders.
A lone linebacker had an angle, but Saunders was too fast. The score made it 14-10.
“We felt like we needed to run some trick plays,” said Brindle. “Unless you’re a dominant offense, you always do.”
But Chanute came right back with a big play of their own. Christian Wiltse caught a short out-route, but a missed tackle spurred Wiltse all the way to the end zone.
But a bad snap on the point after made it 16-14 going into halftime, instead of 17-14. The lost point proved devastating for Chanute in the fourth quarter, when they got what should’ve been the game-tying touchdown, but instead had to go for two, and missed.
Piper got the first two scores of the second half, a field goal and a touchdown. The touchdown came on a bruising run of about 40 yards from Colton Beebe, which gave Piper an eight-point lead.
“We thought about going for two there to make it a two-score game, but if we missed it they would be able to tie it with a touchdown and extra point. Us kicking the field goal meant they’d have to make a two-point conversion,” Brindle said.
The strategy was sound, as Chanute had their 70-yard late touchdown drive fall a two-point conversion short of tying it up.
The Pirates face an even tougher task next week in Eudora. The winner of that game will play for the 4A State Championship on November 24.
“We’re so much better than we were at the beginning of the season [against Eudora],” said Eikenbary. “We’re ready to go.”
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