Tonganoxie Friday night's Tonganoxie-DeSoto high school football game started out as a physical slugfest and ended as an aerial circus.
In a game with plenty of trick plays and an outcome not decided until the game's final 30 seconds, Matt Alexander snared an interception to seal a 23-20 Tonganoxie victory.
"It was a great football game," said Mike Mayse, who caught two second-half touchdowns to help the Chieftains improve 3-1.
DeSoto coach Brad Scott saw things a little differently.
"We were this close," said Scott. "But when you have a program that's established, you win games like that."
It was the Wildcats who were in control early as junior running back Michael Allen dominated the Wildcat's ground game.
The 6-foot, 235-pound Allen capped off a 13-play 70-yard scoring drive with a five-yard burst up the middle with three minutes left in the first quarter.
On the Wildcats' second possession, Allen broke loose for a 45-yard scamper but DeSoto failed to extend its lead.
"Their offense is designed to go to him," Tonganoxie coach Mark Elston said of Allen, who gained 134 yards in the first half. "I'd give the ball to him 40 times too if I could."
After the break, it seemed as if the Chieftains had gotten their homecoming jitters out of their system, holding the Wildcats to four rushing yards while amassing 103 of their own in the third.
Tonganoxie kept the ball on the ground, feeding their committee of rushers Joe Sledd, Billy Baska and Chuck Riddle and it paid as Sledd ran up the middle for a six-yard score.
Riddle gave the Chieftains an 8-7 lead on the two-point conversion after a De Soto penalty.
Tonganoxie wasn't through scoring or keeping the ball in its backfield, but the Chieftains also found success through the air.
But first, Riddle capped off another drive with a two-yard touchdown run and Alexander caught the conversion pass from quarterback Troy Morando for a 16-8 lead.
"That was probably the most vital play of the game," Elston said. "That second two-point conversion became critical."
Indeed it did, as the Wildcats marched down the field and came up with a score on a controversial play.
DeSoto quarterback Greg Francis hooked up with Bart McGivern for an eight-yard touchdown pass after the ball slipped through Baska's hands.
A penalty flag was thrown for pass interference on DeSoto, but the officials ruled that the ball was tipped negating the penalty. The Wildcats trailed 16-14.
That's when the fun began.
Morando aired out another long ball on third and long to Mayse, who caught it for a 38-yard touchdown and a 23-14 lead.
"Yeah it was the same play," Mayse said with a smile after catching a 57-yard strike earlier in the half in a similar situation.
DeSoto didn't quit and pulled out an end-around pass from its bag of tricks, as Andrew Koontz tossed a 45-yard pass to Allen, narrowing the lead to 23-20.
Tonganoxie couldn't run out the clock and gave the Wildcats one last chance to take the lead, but Alexander picked off Francis' pass near midfield.
"We'll take a lot of momentum from this game," Elston said. "To win a close one like this will help us a lot."
Tonganoxie 23, DeSoto 20
De Soto 7 0 0 13 20
Tonganoxie 0 0 8 15 23
DeSoto Michael Allen 5 run (Greg Francis kick)
Tonganoxie Joe Sledd 6 run (Chuck Riddle run)
Tonganoxie Riddle 2 run (Alexander from Troy Morando)
DeSoto Andrew Koontz 45 pass to Allen (pass failed)