FORT SCOTT -- All there is now for the Fort Scott Tigers is pride. There will be no playoff games for them in 2009.
Although there was some good play and a lead at the end of the first quarter, the Tigers were unable to hold on and lost to Anderson County, 41-13, in Kansas Class 4A District 6 play at Frary Field Friday night. The Bulldogs scored 20 points off Tiger turnovers.
In order to make the playoffs, the Tigers had to win this game and also win next week at Chanute. They don't even get to play spoiler at Chanute Thursday night to end the regular season as the Blue Comets clinched a playoff spot with a 34-13 victory over Iola.
But what the Tigers will have is a chance to do something usually reserved for the State champion: They can win their last game of the season and go out on a high note.
"We've played Chanute well," Fort Scott head coach Don Epps said. "We were in the same situation last year. They came to our place and we played them hard. We played them all the way until the fourth quarter. This won't be any different. By the end of the game Thursday night, everything you want to get accomplished, you'd better get it done on the field."
Chris Archie put the Tigers (0-2 district, 1-7 overall) on the board first when he scored on a 20-yard run one play after Fort Scott recovered an Anderson County fumble. Griffin Knopp's extra-point kick made it a 7-0 contest with 8:43 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers stopped Anderson County's next drive when Denzel Davis and Tony Jackson sacked Bulldog quarterback Galen Ryman on a third-and-9 play from the Fort Scott 33, forcing a punt.
That punt pinned Fort Scott back at its own 4 and they couldn't get out of the hole before punting themselves. Chase Whitcomb returned the kick to the Fort Scott 14. Two plays later, Cody Chambers scored for the Bulldogs (1-1, 6-2) on a 10-yard run but the extra point failed, leaving it 7-6 with 1:19 left in the first.
The Bulldogs took advantage of a Fort Scott fumble to take the lead with 9:45 to go in the half on Joseph Whittman's 17-yard run. This time, ACHS tried to go for two points but failed. But they were in front 12-7.
The Tigers gave themselves a chance to take the lead back late in the half. Ryman was sacked on a play in Fort Scott territory and fumbled. Drew Bryant recovered the ball for the Tigers and advanced it to the Anderson County 31. But the ensuing drive stalled at the 17 when there was a fumble on fourth down.
The Bulldogs took over there and moved the ball. Wittman broke away for 42 yards on the fourth play of the drive to get the ball to the Fort Scott 28 with under a minute and a half to go. On fourth-and-7 from the 25, Ryman connected with tight end Thomas Mudd for a touchdown, then ran in the two-point conversion himself to make it 20-7 with 46 seconds left.
Ryman intercepted a pass on the first play of the Tigers' next drive, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the Fort Scott 46 with 32 seconds to go. Five plays later, he connected with receiver Matt Walters on a 7-yard scoring pass with 1 second to go, making it 26-7. The two-point conversion failed.
"You can't give up those big momentum-swingers," Fort Scott head coach Don Epps said. "We were trying to move the ball before halftime. We took a chance and got it intercepted and they turned it into points. I wouldn't change a thing. We were trying to be aggressive and win the ball game."
Anderson County had 205 yards of total offense at the half. They gained 129 of those on their last two scoring drives.
The Bulldogs recovered another fumble at their own 46 midway through the third quarter and scored off that. They handed the ball to Eric Pretzer on seven of the eight plays on the drive, including the last one for a 2-yard TD run with 4:35 left in the period. Ryman ran in another two-point conversion to make it 34-7.
"We felt getting a win tonight was an attainable goal," Fort Scott head coach Don Epps said. "And we got out to a good start and scored early. But they got some momentum and we didn't respond. That's very discouraging."
Fort Scott put together a well-run scoring drive after the Pretzer score. The 16-play, 75-yard drive culminated in Jaret Thorpe's 1-yard scoring run with 9:56 left in the contest. Anderson County responded by going on a long drive of its own. Alen Troyer's 16-yard TD run with 3:35 left capped a 12-play, 65-yard drive.
The Tigers were able to advance to Anderson County's 22 with their final possession but turned the ball over on downs with 3 seconds remaining.
"I challenged our kids to play hard and play with character in the second half," Fort Scott head coach Don Epps said. "You just have to do your job and play your heart out. We started moving the ball a little bit better in the second half but it was too late."
Anderson County finished the game with 330 yards of offense, 248 on the ground. Wittman, who had already rushed for 1,100 yards this season, finished with 99 on 14 carries. Ryman completed 8 of 12 passes for 82 yards.
Fort Scott had 195 total yards, 116 rushing. Archie finished with 95 yards on 15 carries. Sophomore quarterback Luke Brown completed 5 of 8 passes in the second half for 63 yards. Josh Hawkins had 2 catches for 30 yards and Knopp caught two passes for 28 yards.
The Tigers travel to Chanute next Thursday. Although the Blue Comets (6-1 SEK, 7-1 overall) are in the playoffs, no matter what, they still need a victory to win the Southeast Kansas League title outright. A loss would drop them into a tie with Columbus (6-2, 6-2), which plays Girard in a non-league game.
Anderson County will go to Iola (1-1 district, 3-5 overall), which lost to Chanute 34-13 after getting within 14-13 in the second quarter. The winner of that game gets into the playoffs. The loser's season comes to an end.