IOLA, Kan. -- Fortunately for Fort Scott High's football team, once the Tigers' game with Iola became a shootout here Friday night, the game was already under their control.
There were seven touchdowns scored in the third quarter alone. Fort Scott scored five of them, three coming in the first five minutes of the period.
Final score: Fort Scott 69, Iola 21. Fort Scott held a 35-7 lead at halftime. The 34-14 margin the Tigers outscored the Mustangs by in the third alone would have been their highest point total and largest margin of victory this season.
"When you get in a situation in the second half where you're just trying to get the game along and moving, it's tough because Iola's playing hard and we're trying to get some young kids in there," Fort Scott head coach Bob Campbell said. "I was glad we were able to get all the kids in there tonight."
This was the opening game of Kansas Class 4A District 6 play as well as the Tigers' final Southeast Kansas League game of the season. In the other district game, Anderson County defeated Prairie View, 36-21.
The Tigers (1-0 district, 4-3 SEK, 4-3 overall) got things started on special teams. Straton Hunziker was credited with blocking a punt at the end of Iola's first possession and Brady Fink picked it up and returned it 40 yards for the opening score with 8:27 left in the first quarter.
"We talked to our kids a lot this week about how we needed to make a play on special teams," Campbell said. "It was a good play to scoop it and score."
Griffin Knopp made two leaping catches to set up the Tigers' next score. The first was an interception of Mustang quarterback Charles Apt. The next was a 51-yard reception from Trevor Swim. Knopp dragged his defender the last few yards to the Iola 5. Jaret Thorpe scored two plays later over the left side of the line to make it 14-0 with 6:59 on the clock.
Thope scored again near the end of the period on a 2-yard run set up the play before by Dane Cummings' 43-yard rumble. With 1:03 left in the first, it was 21-0.
The Tigers found themselves back at their own 3-yard line early in the second quarter after an Iola punt. But a few plays later, Swim found Knopp, who broke a tackle on his way to an 84-yard score to make it 28-0 with 9:02 to go in the second quarter.
Cody McGehee scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 2-yard run with 2:43 left in the half, making it 35-0.
"Offensively, I thought we executed well tonight," Campbell said. "Trevor played very well. Griffin played very well. The entire offense did very well. We had a lot of running backs do a lot of good things tonight. Offensive line performed very well."
The Mustangs (0-1, 0-7, 0-7) posted their only score of the half on a 47-yard scoring pass from backup quarterback Mason Coons to Dylan Allen with 2:02 left in the half. Coons was in after Apt suffered an injury earlier in the period.
Apt came back in on defense and picked off Swim near the end of the half. But a few plays later, Johnathan Stark intercepted one of Coons' passes.
Fort Scott scored on its first three possessions of the second half and needed only 7 plays and 2:01 of possession time to do so.
Swim found Knopp for 41 yards on Fort Scott's first possession of the half and a face-mask penalty against Iola moved the ball to the Iola 18. That pass, Swim's last, put him at 225 yards on the night. This is the third time in his high-school career that Swim has thrown for over 200 yards.
Thorpe scored over the left side on the very next play to make it 42-7.
Swim's keeper over the left side on the first play of the next drive made it 49-7 with 9:46 to go.
Then McGehee scored his second TD from 43 yards out with 7:05 to go on the second play of the next possession to make it 56-7.
Iola showed it wasn't going to go away without a fight as Marcus Sullivan scored on a 1-yard run with 3:13 to go in the period. Iola recovered an onside kick but Knopp returned his second interception of the night 87 yards for another score to make it 63-14 with 1:42 to go.
Sullivan scored again just two plays later on a 45-yard run, which cut the deficit to 63-21 with 1:11 remaining.
Fort Scott recovered another onside kick and McGehee capped the night's scoring with a 53-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds left. Knopp, whose leg may have been tired from kicking 9 previous extra points, missed this one to leave it at 69-21.
The fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
Fort Scott finished with 575 yards in total offense, 350 on the ground on 36 carries. McGehee finished with 116 yards on just 7 carries. Thorpe, whose playing status was doubtful prior to the game due to an injury suffered last week, gained 80 yards on 10 rushes.
Swim completed 7 of 10 passes as he had his best performance since passing for over 200 yards in the season-opening game at Labette County. Knopp had 193 receiving yards on 5 catches.
Iola, which has never beaten a Campbell-coached team, finished with 390 total yards, 216 on the ground. Sullivan gained 140 yards on 25 carries. A senior, Sullivan finished his high-school career with 345 rushing yards in three games versus the Tigers.
Coons finished the night 13 of 27 for 149 yards and 3 interceptions. Jerrik Sigg caught 12 of those passes for 122 yards.
Swim had plenty of time to pass as he was not pressured often and the running game was able to find big holes. The offensive line may have made a statement in this game. If so, the first game of districts is a good time to do that.
"The offensive line's been improving as the year's gone on," Campbell said. "All those guys played very, very well. That's without looking at film. I thought run blocking was good; pass protection was good. We gave Trevor an opportunity to throw the ball."
Fort Scott will play its last home game of the season next Friday versus Prairie View.