Paola's run stops in the semifinals
By David Svoboda PrepsKC staff writer
Paola found itself in an early hole from which it could not dig out and fell to Coffeyville-Field Kindley 36-15 in a Kansas Class 4A Sub State contest Friday night in Paola.
Special teams breakdowns and a single defensive gaffe by the Panthers led to the visiting Golden Tornado grabbing a 21-0 lead less than nine minutes into the contest, and Paola was forced to scratch and claw its way back for the remainder of the night.
“Our special teams were outstanding all year, but tonight they weren’t,” said Paola Coach Mike Dumpert. “It created a deficit that got us out of our game plan, and we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
But the Panthers did just that, closing the gap to 21-15 with 8:28 left in the contest, and then taking the ball back over with 4:55 left and the chance to drive for the tying – or possibly winning – points.
“That speaks a lot about the character of those kids,” Dumpert said of his team’s refusal to roll over, despite its early struggles. “We didn’t execute a few things. There’s a laundry list of ‘what ifs.’ The bottom line is that in these games, you’ve got to make plays and we didn’t do that.”
A pair of late interceptions by Field Kindley resulted directly in points, however, and the Paola season came to a painful close. The Panthers finished their year at 11-2. Coffeyville, 12-1, moves on to face Buhler, also 12-1, in the 4A title game on Saturday in Salina.
Things were rough from the outset of this contest for Paola – which battled itself and the 27-degree weather for much of the early going.
The Golden Tornado got a 70-yard opening kickoff return from senior wide out James Newton to set up a short-field drive at the Paola 15.
Though the Panthers stuffed Field Kinley on three straight plays from the one-yard line, the Tornadoes were able to punch it in on 4th-and-1 when quarterback Nathan Finley leaned across the goal line for the early 7-0 edge after the successful PAT.
That’s when the second special teams failure of the evening bit the Panthers in the rear end. A pooch kick by Coffeyville was muffed by a Paola upback, and the Golden Tornado pounced on the ball, setting themselves up once more in Paola territory – this time at the 32-yard-line.
Time for the lone defensive breakdown of the first three quarters for Paola.
With the ball back just seconds after scoring, Coffeyville elected to go for the early knockout blow, and Finley hit senior receiver Darren Deffebaugh with a perfect strike down the sideline in front of the Paola bench, and 32 yards later it would be 14-0 in favor of the visitors. Ouch.
Paola had a chance to get on the board two possessions later, but its effort turned into points for Field Kindley in a most unlikely of fashions.
When senior kicker Luke Wilson’s low, line-drive field goal attempt was blocked from 30 yards out by the middle of the Coffeyville line, everyone on the field virtually froze. Everyone except junior Nick Wintjen of Field Kindley, who reacted a bit late but scooped up the live ball and rambled the distance for a touchdown and a stunning 21-0 lead after the PAT.
As it turned out, the visitors would not score again until 3:30 was left in the game.
“I thought the defense played lights out,” Dumpert said. “I was very proud of how we flew around. We were very physical and tackled pretty well.”
Paola began chipping away at the deficit with a 5-yard TD pass from Andrew Henn to Mitchell Sloan early in the second quarter that made it 21-6 after Wilson’s PAT kick was blocked.
That would be the halftime score. Paola took its second drive of the third quarter 42 yards for its second TD, with Henn hitting Wilson with a 26-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 21-12 after – remarkably – Wilson’s third kick of the night was blocked.
With 8:28 left in the contest, Wilson finally had some good kicking fortune, hitting a 23-yard field goal to cut the deficit to just six at 21-15. And his team looked as if it might come all the way back when it took over at its own 13 with 4:55 left.
But Paola’s sixth play from scrimmage on the drive would end in another huge play by Wintjen. This time, he stepped in the passing lane and grabbed an errant Henn pass, taking it back 18 yards for the touchdown that iced the game. When Newton converted on a two-point run it was 29-15 Field Kinley.
Paola tried, in vain, to battle back, and Henn’s second interception in fewer than two minutes gave Coffeyville the ball back at the Paola nine-yard-line with just under two minutes left. LaDarrius Johnson’s 13-yard run after a Tornado penalty would lead to the final margin.
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