by Brian Turrel
The Piper Pirates defeated the Tonganoxie Chieftains 35-14 Friday evening at Piper Stadium. The Pirates overcame an early deficit to win their first round game in the 4A KSHSAA playoffs.
The teams traded long but unfruitful drives to start the game before the Chieftains got on the board with two minutes remaining in the first quarter on a touchdown pass from Talon Langford to Isaiah Holthaus.
The Pirates weren’t able to answer back on the following drive, intercepted by Langford who was on as a defensive back. A Holthaus reception put the Chieftains into the red zone, but the Piper defense held, forcing the visitors into an unsuccessful 30-yard field goal attempt.
Having averted a two-score disadvantage, Piper’s offense moved quickly down the field, with the help of a pass interference call on the Chieftains. Poised near midfield, Piper quarterback Logan Ladish extended a play by scrambling to his right and connecting with receiver Colin Vigil near the goal line for a touchdown.
Level at 7-7, the teams again traded drives around midfield. As the clock wound down to the half, Piper coach John Black called a timeout with one minute remaining to give his team one more chance to score.
The Pirates didn’t need the whole minute. On the first play, Mason L’Heureux hauled in a Ladish pass and sprinted to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown and a 14-7 halftime lead.
Piper kept the momentum going in the third quarter. With just three minutes gone, a Ladish run to the Tonganoxie 11-yard line set up a touchdown run from Freddie Eskridge.
After forcing a punt from the Chieftains, Piper had its most effective drive of the night. Pinned at their own 11-yard line, the Pirates drove past midfield with first-down catches from L’Heureux and Che’ Clemons and a 13-yard run from Terrel Anderson.
Miguel Martin capped the drive with a 34-yard touchdown, getting good blocking up front and bursting through the middle of the line into open space.
An unlikely pass on Piper’s next drive got the student section on its feet when left tackle Camden Beebe took a Ladish handoff and dropped back to pass. Beebe hit Vigil at the Tonganoxie 40-yard line for a 35-yard completion.
After the game, Beebe, committed to Kansas State next year, talked about the play.
“We were practicing it all week,” the Piper senior said, “and I was throwing fifty-plus. The lights got to me and I got a little scared back in the pocket and just kind of threw it up there. It had a lot of hang time, but definitely wasn’t my best pass. But you know — perfect pass completion, so I can’t complain about that.”
Tonganoxie clawed back a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard Langford sweep. The Chieftains’ onsides kick was recovered by Piper, setting up a short field for the home team.
Zane Pudenz got Piper into the red zone, breaking several tackles before being dragged down at the Tonganoxie 14-yard line. Aaron Henson cashed in with a 2-yard touchdown run for the final score, pushing the pile with a second effort to get to the end zone.
Clemons shut down Tonganoxie’s last gasp drive with an interception on the Piper 12-yard line.
Piper, now with a 6-3 season record, will travel to Chanute to face the undefeated and top-seeded Chanute Blue Comets in the regional playoff round.
In other football post-season action, Sumner Academy defeated Topeka West 47-42 in the 5A playoffs, the Academy’s first playoff win since 2010. The 7-2 Sabres will play host to the 6-3 Pittsburg Dragons at Schlagle Stadium next Friday at 7 p.m.
Bishop Ward beat Perry LeCompton 32-6 in the 3A playoffs. The 7-2 Cyclones will travel to Holton to take on the Wildcats next Friday.
The Wyandotte Bulldogs closed out their season with a 56-6 loss at Olathe Northwest in the 6A playoffs.
The Washington Wildcats lost to Pittsburg on the road 42-8 in the 5A playoffs, finishing with a 3-6 record.
In the 5A playoffs, Turner lost at second-seeded De Soto 49-0, and Harmon lost at top-seeded Mill Valley 69-0, wrapping up winless seasons for both squads.
In 4A games, Bonner Springs lost to Louisburg 48-0, ending the season at 2-7. Schlagle lost 42-6 to Chanute, wrapping up at 1-8.