ABILENE, Kan.—The Chapman High School football team put their annual Dickinson County showdown with Abilene High School and their Class 4A District 15 opener basically on the outcome of one play.
The outcome of that play went in favor of the Fighting Irish, who turned back Abilene’s attempt at an upset with a 29-28 victory, which closed out Abilene and Chapman’s 2012 North Central Kansas League schedule and opened their Class 4A District 15 slate with a Fighting Irish win.
“We just wanted to win the game,” Chapman’s coach Trevor Williams said. “We didn’t want to tie and keep playing, we felt confident in what we were doing. We thought we had a good call. … we just wanted to get the win.”
The Cowboys, however, still had one more possession to overcome that 1-point deficit and Abilene began that possession at its own 41 yard line. The Cowboys their only interception of the game after picking up a first down allowing Chapman to kneel on the ball twice to finish off the game clock.
The fact that Abilene struggled offensively on their final possession was a stark contrast to the way the game was played in the first half.
All games are played with two halves. But Friday night at Abilene, the two halves were starkly different with each offense dictating the first half and the defenses shined in the second half.
In the first half Abilene built up 21- yards of total offense, 96 on the ground and 114 through the air and scored three touchdowns. Chapman, meanwhile, accumulated 177 total yards in the first half, 106 by Logan Lexow and three Lexow touchdowns, making the score 21-20, Chapman, at intermission. The Irish had the one-point lead because on Abilene’s third touchdown Chapman blocked the ensuing PAT kick.
The Cowboys, who began the game with possession of the ball, were stopped once offensively and forced to punt. Chapman, meanwhile, only had one possession stopped without scoring a point and that was only because the clock in the second quarter reached 0:00.
But, the second half, was different for each team as in the second half as in the third and fourth quarters Abilene accumulated 133 yards of total offense, 96 through the air and 37 on the ground, and only cracked the end zone once. Chapman, meanwhile, was limited to 31 yards rushing and they went to the air for 81 more yards and, like Abilene, was limited to just one touchdown.
The Cowboys struck first in the game as they put together a 14-play, 69-yard drive which was capped with a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Andy Wilson on the game’s opening possession.
The Irish answered quickly as they needed just 6 plays to cover 56 yards and knot the score 7-7.
Both teams scored twice in the second quarter and went to the locker room at intermission with Chapman clinging to the 1-point advantage.
The Fighting Irish opened the second half with possession of the ball, but the defenses for each team took over the contest.
“They made some good adjustments at halftime,” Williams said of Abilene. “Really loaded the box and we stuck with trying the run. We knew we needed to open it up a little bit, they were giving it to us. So in the fourth quarter we had to go to the pass, and they were loading up the run. That fourth quarter we got going and got some throws going.”
Abilene was the first squad to find pay dirt in the second half as the Cowboys opened the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive which was capped with a 9-yard pass from Wilson to Keil Kelly.
The Cowboys converted a 2-point conversion following the touchdown to give them a 28-21 lead with 6:29 remaining in regulation.
Chapman took over possession of the ball, following the ensuing kickoff, but only had it for five plays, losing the ball with a turnover on downs at Abilene’s 19 yard line.
The Cowboys, however, were unable to make that possession turn into anything as they were forced to punt the ball back to the Irish after just three plays.
Chapman took over possession at Abilene’s 37-yard line and needed just three plays to find the endzone. The key play during the 3-play drive was a 34-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Harris to receiver Logan Lehmkuhl, which put Chapman at Abilene’s 1-yard line.
Harris plunged in from 1 yard on the next play, setting up the key play of the game.
“It was going to be four quarters, we knew,” Williams said. “We just had to keep fighting. They played a heck of a game and we played a pretty good game and just got it at the end. We came out on top, but it was one of those games where somebody has to lose and it hurts for whoever loses because it was a good fought game."
Abilene was whistled for offsides on the PAT, putting the ball at the 1-yard line. Gillen plunged in from there, giving Chapman the 1-point edge.
On its final posseion Abilene threw two incompletions and two completions to receiver Zach Barberi, but on a 1st-and-10 at Chapman’s 47-yard line Wilson dropped back and threw to Kelly. But Chapman’s Harris intercepted the pass, giving the game to the Fighting Irish.
“I felt like we were going to score on that last series,” Williams said. “I was talking to the coaches when we got the ball back. I said ‘what are we thinking?, we score, here, we are going to score, one or two?’ So we were talking about it even before we went in We were thinking about what we wanted to do. Coaches said ‘it is up to you, what do you want to do?’ We called timeout, the kids said we got it, let’s go for two and we put it in.”
Abilene will play at McPherson next Friday night while Chapman will play host to Smoky Valley. McPherson beat Smoky Valley 42-13 in the other Class 4A District 15 contest Friday night.
“That makes it big being the first district game,” Williams said. “They are all going to be tough games. We know that … you just want to start off 1-0 and wait until next week.”