In the middle of Mark Elston's two-and-a-half hour drive to Salina for a meeting to determine next season's district opponents, the Tonganoxie High football coach spotted a broken down van on the side of the road.
THS athletics director Brandon Parker, who was with Elston, recognized the school district number on the van: 458, the number of fellow Kaw Valley Leaguers Basehor-Linwood.
Elston quickly made a phone call to Basehor coach Steve Hopkins, turned the Tonganoxie vehicle around on the highway and offered the Bobcats coach a lift.
Elston and Hopkins spent nearly four hours together on the road Wednesday. Coincidentally, the two will be on opposite sidelines tonight in a gridiron clash between Tonganoxie and Basehor-Linwood.
"We took them all the way right back to the front door in Basehor," Elston said. "We could have left them in Abilene, but we decided we'd be all right if we took them all the way back."
Don't think the game wasn't on Elston's mind.
"I told him they had to spot us at least seven (points) for tomorrow night," Elston quipped.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 tonight at Basehor.
Elston has known Hopkins since age 12. Elston's father used to coach against Hopkins at the high school level.
"It's a good, fun rivalry for us," Elston said. "When they line us up, we're going to be in the district with Basehor next year, so that will bring back a lot of the rivalry."
Tonganoxie and Basehor enter tonight's game with 1-4 records. The Chieftains won their first game of the season last week, while the Bobcats are on a two-game losing skid.
Tonganoxie ran the ball as well as it has all season in the Sept. 28 homecoming victory against Santa Fe Trail. In the Chieftains first four games - all losses - they averaged 177 rushing yards per game.
Last Friday, Tonganoxie punished Santa Fe Trail for 337 rushing yards. Where did that come from?
"The cut-back lanes were awesome, the blocking was really good and the linemen did all their jobs right," said sophomore running back Jeremie Maus, who ran for 87 yards last week. "It's there every game at least once or twice, but last week, it was there every time. It reminded me a lot of last year's really good (THS) running game."
Senior Kevin Gill led all Chieftains with 139 rushing yards and two scores. Freshman quarterback Jeremy Carlisle had 52. Isiah Sawyer added another 43, while Zack Robinson had 16.
"We didn't have nearly as many frustrating five-yard penalties that kill a drive," Elston said. "We finally started clicking. We kept our drives alive and guys were able to audible us into good plays. That's the first time we've had that all year, and it resulted in a good offensive performance."
In scouting the Bobcats, Elston said their size, particularly along the offensive line, stood out. He said Basehor had five players who were at least 300 pounds. Of those five, two are 6 feet, 7 inches and two more are 6'5.
"They're just absolutely gigantic," Elston said. "If we're lacking size, we have to get angles on them. We'll look for certain holes, gaps and seams that we can hit. It's very imperative for our lineman to be able to get good angles on those big horses because we're not going to be able to just push them out of the way."