Offense hapless without Hopkins in 35-0 loss to THS
The deck was stacked against the Basehor-Linwood High School football team last Friday against Tonganoxie. The Chieftains were 5-0 and the Bobcats were without head coach, Steve Hopkins, who was ill. Even with all that going against them, the Bobcats competed early, but just couldn't find a way to score.
Tonganoxie led just 14-0 at halftime, but the BLHS offense had only managed 21 yards in the half. With possession in Tonganoxie's favor, the BLHS defense wore down, and a few big plays led to a 35-0 Chieftains' victory. The frustrations continued for a BLHS squad that has scored four offensive touchdowns in six games.
BLHS assistant coach Dave Svoboda ran the offense in Hopkins' absence, while Ross Schwisow handled the defense. Svoboda said that, but for a few plays, the defense had played well enough to win.
"There's no question we've got to be better on offense to help out our defense," Svoboda said. "(The defense) made just three major mistakes and Tonganoxie, being a good team, took advantage of all three."
BLHS started four drives at or beyond midfield Friday without scoring. The Bobcats fumbled the opening kickoff but senior lineman Nick Davis picked it up and rumbled into Chieftains' territory. The possession ended with an interception on fourth down.
The offense couldn't find any holes in the THS defense and the only BLHS first down in the half came on a fake punt, when Davis threw a five-yard completion to Tyler Miles. The fake was a gutsy call, because the Bobcats were only at their own 30-yard line, and Svoboda said he cleared the decision with Schwisow first because he knew it might put the defense in a tough spot.
Schwisow gave the OK, showing confidence in a defense that had already allowed two big plays by Tonganoxie's star quarterback, Jeff Hughes. Hughes threw a 32-yard touchdown on the Chieftains' first possession and also scored on a 58-yard run in the first quarter. On the Chieftains' third possession, though, BLHS senior linebacker Kevin Marshall changed the momentum. Marshall burst into the THS backfield and disrupted a pitch from Hughes, causing a fumble. The Chieftains recovered the ball, but their possession ended five plays later when Hughes' deep pass was intercepted by sophomore Chandler Schaake.
The pick added to the Bobcats' momentum, but they lost it quickly when their offense went three-and-out on the next possession. Davis said it was difficult for the defense to come off the field on a high, only to have to trudge back on a few minutes later.
"I don't know, it's hard, but we'll get through it," he said.
The defense and special teams combined to keep BLHS in the game until halftime. A sack by Marshall short-circuited Tonganoxie's next possession and, after another BLHS three-and-out, Davis made a great play to pin the Chieftains deep. The fourth-down snap went over the senior's head, but he corralled it and still had time to get off a booming, 55-yard punt. Tonganoxie's last chance to add points before halftime ended when Jacob Schierbaum sacked Hughes and forced a fumble.
That was the last big play the junior would make Friday. Three minutes into the second half Schierbaum, playing defensive end, was hit on a running play and shaken up. He lay on the field for more than a half hour before an ambulance arrived.
"It really took some steam out of us," Davis said of watching his teammate in pain.
After losing Schierbaum, the Bobcats were without one of their top playmakers on both sides of the ball. Tonganoxie went up 28-0 late in the third quarter before BLHS mounted its first serious drive. Svoboda went to a shotgun formation and quarterback Brandon Leppke found a rhythm, hitting a quick slant to sophomore wideout Anthony Pierce for 10 yards and another to Schaake for 19.
The Bobcats earned a first-and-goal at the five, but were stymied on four straight plays. They went away from the shotgun and three straight running plays went for no gain before Leppke's fourth-down pass fell incomplete. Svoboda later said he regretted not sticking with the shotgun.
The Bobcats never got close to the end zone again. Tonganoxie got the ball back and Hughes broke free for an 82-yard touchdown run that made it 35-0 with eight minutes left.
At the end of the day Hughes had made a number of plays, running and throwing for two touchdowns, while the Bobcats' offense had made very few. Part of that could be attributed to Hopkins' absence.
"The offense, in particular, was Hop's creation and nobody's going to run it as well as Dr. Frankenstein," Svoboda said.
For a look at the Sentinel's new football section, which includes more on the loss to Tonganoxie, season stats and a look ahead to Friday's game against Westport, see Page 5B.