Cardinals lose 21-14 to Tigers
The Eudora High School football team gave Friday's record crowd at Laws Field everything it wanted in a high school football game except a victory.
Undefeated Fort Scott earned its third-straight trip to the Kansas Class 4A state championship game with a 21-14 victory over Eudora. The game was dominated by two physical defensives, which shut down their foes' running games and prevented either offensive from mounting sustained drives. Big pass plays accounted for two of the night's touchdowns, while the Cards defense provided one of Eudora's scores.
"We had a great effort," Eudora Coach Gregg Webb said. "Defensively, we were very concerned about their size and physical play. In the first half, we played as good defensively as we could have played. Our physical play was as good as I've seen it all year."
The Cardinals couldn't capitalize against Fort Scott (12-0), as the teams exchanged punts the next several possessions.
Junior Troy Van Horn and senior Dustin Moyer, seven tackles and a forced fumble, stopped the Tigers' vaunted option game in the first quarter.
The Tigers received their best field position of the game, at the Eudora 40, with 8:48 in the half. The Cards, behind the defensive efforts of seniors Luke Powers, 10 tackles, Kaleb Niedens, game-high 14 tackles, Joe Born, eight tackles, and Michael Paxton, five tackles, forced Fort Scott to go three and out.
Sophomores Chris Durkin, six tackles, and Josh Barr, four tackles, also helped contain the Tigers.
After Paxton plowed through the Tigers backfield, Fort Scott faced a third and 12 situation with 4:11 in the half. Fort Scott senior quarterback Ross Holt, four-for-13, 75 yards, threw a 33-yard pass to senior running back Donnie Hampton. Eudora junior Josh Brouhard prevented Hampton from reaching the end zone. On the next play, Holt kept the ball and ran 20 yards for a touchdown.
The Cardinals then were able to regain the lost momentum thanks to the second of three Tiger turnovers.
With 2:50 left in the half, Eudora quarterback Tyler Cleveland, 4-for-8, 97 yards and a touchdown, led the Cards to a first down but fumbled the ball. Luckily for Eudora, junior Joey Donahue intercepted Holt on the next play.
Donahue then made a 48-yard touchdown reception with 1:55 in the half. Niedens' extra point tied the game at 7.
Turnovers and penalties decided the sub-state championship game in the second half.
The Fort Scott defense held senior running back Andrew Pyle and Jackson to a combined 33 yards rushing.
In the Cards first second half possession, Powers caught a play-action pass from Cleveland for a first down but fumbled the ball. Fort Scott took advantage of the field position and a crucial off-sides call with 8:38 in the third quarter. The Tigers faced a fourth and one at the Eudora 35 when they were granted a first down because of the penalty. In all, Eudora amassed 12 penalties for 60 yards.
Thirty-eight seconds later, Fort Scott senior receiver Ryan VandeWynkel caught a pass from Holt for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Tigers appeared to be in control until Jackson forced a fumble off Fort Scott senior running back Joseph Lattimer with 4:11 in the third quarter.
Brouhard, who caught the touchdown pass in overtime against Paola, came up big on defense. He picked up the ball and ran 54 yards for six points. Niedens' extra point tied the game.
The Tigers, and especially, Lattimer marched down the field like a team on a mission. Lattimer would eventually score on an 18-yard touchdown run with 2:26 in the third quarter.
The Cards had two more chances to score in the fourth quarter. Both drives ended when Eudora failed to convert fourth-and-short situations.
In the last drive, Cleveland kept the ball and was tackled close to the first-down marker. It was a yard short at midfield on second down. The Cards were held on third and inches as well as fourth and one. Fort Scott then moved the ball deep into Eudora territory, and ran the clock down the rest of the game.
Webb dismissed talk of a moral victory against tradition-rich Fort Scott. But he said the tough loss and the example set by this year's seniors should help future Cardinals' teams.
"When it came to football, they were very serious and very committed," he said. "Their run here has been very good, and they should be very proud of what they've done for this program."