Tonganoxie — Despite a 14-0 halftime advantage, Tonganoxie coach Steve Hughes was not comfortable by any means with his team's lead over Kansas City Piper in a Class 4A bi-district football game Tuesday night.
"They are a good second-half football team," Hughes said. "We knew we needed to play even tougher in the second half to win the game."
The Chieftains, who held on for 14-8 victory, didn't need to think back too far to reinforce what the Pirates were capable of accomplishing.
Piper overcame a 21-0 deficit last Friday to defeat Lansing, 28-21, to win its district. But sticking even more in the minds of Tongie players was their fourth game of the season, when the Chieftains took a 12-6 lead over Piper into halftime but lost, 20-12.
HUGHES SAID it wasn't a new game plan that made the difference the second time around with Piper.
"The emotions were running high out there," Hughes said. "But we just went out and played football. We decided not to give up the big play." Tongie set the mood early by marching 55 yards in seven plays on the opening possession to take a 7-0 lead. The drive was highlighted by a Larry Stean 26-yard run.
The Chieftains stuffed Piper on its first two possessions, blocked a punt on its third and forced a fumble resulting in a Tongie touchdown on its fourth.
Senior John Keeler, who ran the fumble 16 yards for a touchdown, said he was just at the right place at the right time.
"THE GUY who fumbled was hit pretty hard," Keeler said. "Two Piper guys were right there but the ball squirted out and I picked it up. There was open field and I ran."
True to its billing, however, Piper stormed out from halftime. On their opening possession in the second half the Pirates drove 76 yards in seven plays, culminating with a 35-yard touchdown run by sophomore Damion Hernandez on fourth-and-one. A conversion run by Mike Chandler made the game 14-8.
"We just didn't get started quick enough," Piper coach Laural Hobick said. "They've improved since last time. They're a good ballclub."
The Chieftains blew several chances to seal the game when a fumble and a failed fourth down attempt killed drives at the Piper 8 and 12 yard lines.
Piper threatened one last time late in the fourth quarter, but failed to convert a fourth-and-four at the Tongie 12-yard line.
THE PIRATES outgained Tongie, 290 yards to 208. Chandler paced Piper with 129 yards on 14 carries, while Stean led the Chieftains with 98 yards on 13 totes.
Tonganoxie will travel to Atchison on Saturday for a second-round game against Maur Hill, a 21-6 winner over Sabetha.