For most of the night, the student section chanted at Larned High School. Which doesn't make the Indian faithful much different than any other high school football fans across the state of Kansas. But it was what they were chanting, "We believe that we can win."
The Larned football team had become the model for futility in Central Kansas in recent years. The Indians had lost 24 straight games heading into the 2012 season and had won just four games in four seasons. But on Friday, Larned had a chance to push its record to 3-0 in 2012. Any fan in town, young and old will tell you, an incredible turn around.
But they had a tough opponent in Thomas More Prep. The Monarchs, still smarting from a week two loss to Clay Center, raced out to an early lead when Luke Brull broke free for a 42 yard touchdown. Thomas More Prep lead 7-0 after one quarter.
Special teams would play a big part in this game. Larned had already missed a field goal on the opening drive. And after Easton Palmer scored on the 5 yard bootleg, the Indians missed the first of two extra point attempts. They would also fail to convert two of their three two point tries.
Thomas More Prep would take a 14-6 lead when Nathan Zimmerman scampered in for the touchdown. But Larned would also march back down the field to pull within two, the drive finished with a one yard touchdown plunge by Jamil Shoemaker.
Special teams reared it's head again, when the Monarchs looked to be forcing an Indian punt just before the half, but Larned went for the fake. The direct snap to Brady Keith was more than enough for a first down and helped set up the go ahead score with 4.1 seconds left before the half. That's when Palmer would hit Shoemaker, who broke two tackles to give Larned an 18-14 lead at the break.
The teams traded early in half number two. After a TMP fumble, the Indians took advantage of the short field, and scored on a tough catch by Brayden Smith. That stretched the lead to 24-14.
The Monarchs cut the lead to three on the Nick Schmidt touchdown run. But the joy was short lived for TMP. On the first play after the kickoff, Keith raced 68 yards for the score stretching the lead to 31-21 after three quarters.
Thomas More Prep did not quit and had a chance to once again pull within three with a minute left in the game. But Zimmerman was picked of when Keith made a circus catch of a tipped ball in the endzone.
Larned improved to 3-0 after the 31-21 victory over TMP.
"It feels great, it feels just the way we imagined it," said Indians head coach A.B. Stokes. "We expected to compete and play hard and give ourselves a chance to win. Nobody goes into a game expecting to lose. It feels good just like we imagined it."
The Indians will look to make it 4-0 when they travel to Ellis next Friday. The Monarchs drop to 1-2 and will host Ellinwood in week four.