Monday, November 12, 2012

Piper's path to a title continues after win against Chanute


Two more.

The Piper Pirates football team continues to make history, winning its first ever sectional football game with a 24-22 win over the Chanute Comets.

In an emotional game that featured scrums and two personal foul penalties on Chanute's coaching staff, the Pirates displayed enough poise and made a few more bigger plays late in the game to clinch a rematch against the Eudora Cardinals.

"We're in the Final Four, baby," said coach Chris Brindle after the two-hour emotional roller-coaster that was the Piper-Chanute showdown.

After three three-and-outs to start the game, it was Piper's offense that struck first.

Quarterback Tanner Eikenbary delivered a beautiful 64-yard touchdown pass to Paul Jones, who ran for about 30 yards after the catch. The score put Piper up 7-0.

A Chanute field goal cut the lead to 7-3, a score that would remain for most of the second quarter. Near the end of the first half, a flurry of points nearly put Piper in a hole.

Chanute took the lead on a touchdown that was aided by a few third-down conversions and a very questionable personal foul face-mask call.

Piper responded on the very next drive - a 67-yard touchdown on a reverse run by Dion Saunders. Saunders gave Piper a 14-10 lead and with just a few minutes left in the first half, it looked as if the Pirates would lead entering the half.

That was not the case - bad tackling from the Pirates secondary allowed Chanute to score a 64-yard touchdown on a simple pass play, regaining the lead at 16-14. The Comets had one final opportunity to score, but Piper's defense forced a field goal attempt - one Chanute would miss.

Piper's defense redeemed itself and stepped up in a big way in the second half.

Three third-quarter sacks from the Piper defense helped keep Chanute off the scoreboard most of the second half.

"It's an exciting feeling when you know your defense can get the job done," Brindle said. "That's huge to have in a match-up like this."

Piper linebacker Blake Martin and defensive lineman Kalil Richard consistently put pressure on the Chanute passing attack. The Pirates, who had issues rushing the quarterback last season, had two sacks alone on a three-and-out drive.

Along with defense, it was special teams that played an instrumental role in the victory.

A monster punt from Colton Beebe pinned Chanute deep in their own territory. After a quick possession, Piper took the ball over at the 45-yard-line. From there, they picked up a few first downs to set up a field goal attempt, one that would be converted despite a tough, windy night.

"In my experience watching teams in the playoffs, it's clear that special teams are so huge," Brindle said. "You need them to win big games."

Early in the fourth quarter, Piper would score again - this time with Beebe doing what he does best. A key Eikenbary-to-Sean Eskina hook-up on a nice pass play set up Piper well into Chanute territory.

To cap the drive, Beebe scored from 29 yards out, giving the Pirates a 24-16 lead.

The Comets responded with a clutch drive of their own. Chanute successfully converted four separate third-downs to set up a short touchdown. Piper maintained a 24-22 lead after the two-point conversion failed.

Piper was able to kill three minutes of the remaining six minutes on the clock after Eikenbary hit Beebe on a key third-down conversion.

The Comets, however, had two more chances. After taking the ball over at mid-field following a bad snap on a punt, Piper's defense forced a 4th-and-14 play. Piper's secondary stepped up and prevented a reception.

Controversy erupted after the play. 

The Chanute coaching staff would draw two 15-yard penalties after the play, believing pass interference should have been called on the play. The two penalties allowed Piper to take the ball over on Chanute's 21-yard-line. The Comets would force a four-and-out, giving their offense one more chance.

Piper's defense did not have any of it, forcing a four-and-out of their own to clinch the win.

With the win, Piper gets a second shot at Eudora, a team that handed them a 25-7 loss to begin the season. The winner advances to the 4A state championship game.

"They are a solid team," Brindle said. "We have a lot of respect for their program and coaches. They are a tough defensive team and we'll have to find a way to make some plays."

The Pirates won the game playing through pain. Beebe suffered an ankle injury in the second half, but continued to play on it.

"It was like Isiah Thomas playing on his injured ankle," Brindle said, referring to Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals. 

Piper improves to 10-2 on the season.