Tonganoxie Basehor-Linwood has come a long way from a 2-16 record during its previous two seasons,
But the Bobcats still have a ways to go to be able to compete with the likes of Tonganoxie for an entire football game.
The Chieftains claimed a decisive victory after the Bobcats cut the lead to three late in the first half, earning a 34-10 victory and the Class 4A bi-district championship.
Tongie's offense came almost entirely from its running game, overwhelming the Bobcat defense with a wishbone attack.
Quarterback Ross Starcher, along with a backfield of Sam Mitchell, Zach Ditty and Kaleb Lawrence, ran the triple-option nearly the entire game to frustrate and confuse the overmatched Bobcat defensive line.
"That triple-option, we could not stop," Bobcats coach Steve Hopkins said. "We tried to load the box. Give them credit for executing their offense really well."
The Chieftains were able to force the Bobcats to pass most of the night. The defensive scheme worked as Bobcats quarterback Michael Armstrong faced pressure from the Chieftains defensive line and forced hurried passes, some of which resulted in interceptions.
"We have a fairly good run defense; we knew they were going to pass," Chieftains coach Mark Elston said. "They started to throw the ball and we didn't want to play until midnight."
It appeared a 0-0 tie was as close as the Bobcats were going to get. After forcing the Bobcats to punt on the first possession of the game, the Chieftains promptly opened up a 13-0 lead with their wishbone offense.
The first touchdown was set up with a 26-yard quarterback keeper by Starcher. Soon after, Mitchell ran the ball in from two yards out.
Bobcats' quarterback Michael Armstrong tossed an interception to Starcher, who would have two interceptions on the night.
Starcher then helped himself by running for a five-yard touchdown. The failed extra point made it 13-0 and the game appeared that it would go out of control, but the Bobcats managed a defensive stand on the following Chieftains possession.
Tonganoxie was forced to punt from its own 15-yard line. A bad snap sailed out the back of the end zone to give Basehor-Linwood a safety.
The Bobcats got the ball back and moved it to the Chieftains 27 before the drive seemed to stall. On fourth-and-eight, the Bobcats went for it, and Armstrong connected with tight end Kyle Speichinger for a 27-yard touchdown pass. They converted the two-point conversion to make it 13-10 just before half.
But that was as close as it would get for the Bobcats as the Chieftains went to halftime up 21-10 with a 48 yard run for a touchdown from Lawrence, who finished with 126 yards of rushing.
The second half offered no respite for the Bobcats as Starcher ran for his second touchdown on the half's opening possession.
Starcher said the credit for Tongie's running game went not to the backfield, but the offensive line.
"They're making everything happen and we can run what we want," Starcher said.
Tonganoxie will face top-ranked Topeka Hayden in its next game Saturday. Elston said although he was happy with his team's performance, they would have to cut out costly penalties. The Chieftains were guilty of several false-start penalties and a personal foul.
The Bobcats' season is over, but not without having made significant improvements over previous seasons with a 5-5 record.
"I felt our seniors left us a legacy. 5-5 isn't much, but it is from where we came from," Hopkins said.