HAYS — After finishing second during the regular season with a 5-1 record, the Larned third and fourth grade Junior Indian football team went 2-1 in the eight team Tournament of Champions to earn third place in the Western Kansas Football League.
Having defeated Smoky Valley in the first round, the Indians faced McPherson No. 2 on Lewis Field at Fort Hays University Saturday morning in near freezing temperatures.
It didn’t take long for McPherson to take advantage of its size advantage. The Bullpups scored on their opening drive simply running between the tackles. The Indians denied the extra point attempt leaving McPherson with a 6-0 lead.
The Indians’ defense forced a fumble at the Larned 5-yard line to stay close. Two plays later, tailback Mason Perez scored on a 90-yard touchdown run. However, the Indians were unable to convert their 2 point conversion attempt. Perez would add a second touchdown run with six minutes to play in the game to hand Larned a 12-6 lead.
McPherson then went back to its strength of bounding the ball inside and was able to tie the game at 12-12 with less than a minute to play sending the game to overtime.
Under overtime rules, each team was given an opportunity to score from the 10-yard line. Larned elected to take the ball first, but was unable to reach the end zone. To no one’s surprise McPherson tried to go inside on its first three attempts, but the Indians held strong. On fourth down, cornerback Jack Stelter knocked down a pass at the right pylon of the end zone to force a second overtime.
In the second overtime, McPherson played offense first and tried to spread the Indians out. Larned held strong on the first three downs. On fourth down, the Indians’ pressure forced the quarterback to throw as he was running to his left. McPherson’s tight end made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone to give the Bullpups an 18-12 lead. The Indians were unable to answer on their opportunity.
In the consolation game on Sunday, the Indians faced the No. 1 seed Norton, which lost 32-6 to the No. 4 seed McPherson No. 1 Saturday.
The Blue Jays scored first for a 7-0 lead. Mason Perez answered with a kickoff return for a touchdown. The Indians then went to the air where quarterback Braydon Lemuz hit tight end Tristan Burger for the two-point conversion giving Larned the lead 8-7 less than 30 seconds into the game.
Indians’ Kicker Chance Sanger made a touchdown saving tackle at the Larned 20-yard line on the next kickoff. Norton quickly regained the lead 13-8.
Larned scored on a long run by Mason Perez after the defense forced a turnover inside its own 20-yard line for a 14-13 lead.
The Indians’ defense recovered two second-half fumbles. The first fumble was recovered by defensive tackle Kendrick Castro after a strip by defensive end Brandon Cisneros. Linebacker Avion Tucker recovered the other fumble.
The Indians added some breathing room when running back Dillon Smith scored on a 25-yard run for a 20-13 victory.
The Western Kansas Football League consists of 19 teams and the top eight were invited to participate in the Tournament of Champions. The teams in the 2011 third and fourth-grade tournament were Norton, Larned, Burlington, McPherson No. 1 and McPherson No. 2, Hays Outlaws, Smoky Valley and Colby.
McPherson No. 1 defeated McPherson No. 2 in the finals to earn league champion honors.