Three interceptions lead Bobcats to 1st win
In the Basehor-Linwood High School football team's blowout losses to Mill Valley and Perry-Lecompton, the Bobcats committed seven turnovers and forced none. Last Friday they earned their first win of the season, a 6-0 victory over Clinton (Mo.) High School, by getting three interceptions and never giving the ball away.
Junior running back Bruce Tyner rushed for 82 yards on 18 carries, and freshman quarterback Brandon Leppke threw a 20-yard touchdown pass, but, according to coach Steve Hopkins, the vast improvement in the turnover ratio was what ultimately got BLHS in the win column.
"That's the only reason we won the game," Hopkins said. "Tonight, we never gave them a short field."
The Bobcats got a turnover on Clinton's very first possession. The Cardinals had driven just past midfield when junior quarterback Adam Mills threw an ill-advised pass into triple coverage. Chandler Schaake stepped in front of the intended receiver and pulled it in for the Bobcats, running it up the left sideline to the Clinton 40.
Schaake had been one of the Bobcats' top ball carriers in the first three games, but on Friday the sophomore rushed just twice. Hopkins allowed him to save most of his energy for the defensive secondary, where he made a number of tackles and two interceptions.
"Before we went into this game we made the decision that some kids weren't going to play both ways," Hopkins said. "We felt that was contributing to our turnovers, missed tackles and missed blocks. We're not old enough to play both ways. Players are going to wear down, because no matter how much they work out, some are still 15 and 16 years old."
Schaake's first pick slowed down the Cardinals, but they threatened to score again on their next possession. They drove to the Bobcats' 16, and had a first down there before the BLHS defense rose up in a big way. Defensive ends Scott Ogilvie and Jacob Schierbaum chased down Mills for sacks on consecutive plays, knocking Clinton back to the 32. Two plays later, the Cardinals turned it over on downs.
With Schaake and fellow star defender Kevin Marshall getting far fewer carries Friday, much of the rushing duty fell to Tyner. The transfer from Sumner Academy responded, showing a good burst at the line of scrimmage and the ability to break tackles despite his slight frame.
Still, the score remained 0-0 after the Bobcats botched a field goal at the end of the first half. But then Tyner and Leppke combined to lead a scoring drive on the first possession of the second half. On third-and-16 Tyner took an inside handoff, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and weaved his way for 17 yards to the Clinton 49. It was the longest run of the day for the junior and he followed it with a 13-yard gain on a sweep to the left. After missing early-season practices with a hamstring injury, Tyner looked comfortable with the offense for the first time Friday.
"When he was hurt early, he had just started learning the plays," Hopkins said. "All of a sudden, now he can be in on almost every offensive series."
After Tyner got the Bobcats past midfield, Leppke finished the drive. He hit a leaping Schierbaum over the middle for 12 yards and then, after a costly intentional grounding penalty, redeemed himself on third-and-goal from the 20. The freshman rolled left, threw across his body, and found Tyler Miles open in the back of the end zone. Although Tyner had set up the drive, he said he had no problem seeing it finished by Leppke, who threw for 70 yards and ran for 57 more.
"I knew my teammates could do it, it's not a one-man team" Tyner said. "If I can contribute, that's all I care about."
The Cardinals answered the score by driving to the Bobcats' 28. But then Mills tried to throw a quick slant to the left side and BLHS senior Ben Adams stepped in to pick it off. He returned the interception thirty yards back into Clinton territory.
"I just saw he was going for the slant and I jumped it early," Adams said. "I only had one guy to beat, I thought I was golden."
The Bobcats couldn't turn Adams' pick into points, but the way their defense was playing, it didn't matter. The unit, led by Schaake, Marshall and an inspired defensive line, made eight tackles for loss, including three sacks. Schaake sealed the victory by making his second interception with just 24 seconds left. Although the win didn't count in the league standings, it gave the Bobcats some sense that all the work they've been doing has a payoff.
"It boosts our morale a lot," Adams said. "Once you get that first win, you have much more confidence."
For a preview of Friday's contest against Lansing, see Page 5B. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.