(Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
The Panthers rushed for 411 yards -- their only pass attempt was a spike to kill the clock late in the second quarter -- while the Tigers had trouble running the ball consistently on the tough Paola defense.
This was the Tigers' first playoff game since 2007. Fort Scott finished the season 6-4 after being picked to finish in a tie for last place in the Southeast Kansas League even though head coach Bob Campbell was returning from a four-year hiatus.
(Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
Paola starting quarterback Seth Kern gained most of the yards on the Panthers' initial scoring drive in the first quarter -- including a 41-yard draw play -- and scored on a sneak from 2 yards out with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
Kern never played again after that drive but it turned out the Panthers wouldn't miss him.
Fort Scott was faced with a third-and-9 at its own 28 on its next possession but Trevor Swim kept the drive alive by completing a slip screen pass to Griffin Knopp that went for 52 yards. But the drive stalled four plays later when Swim wasn't able to hook up with Knopp on a fourth-and-4 play at the 14.
The Panthers took over there and held the ball for over 8 minutes before kicker Nick Wilson booted a 44-yard field goal to extend Paola's lead to 10-0 with 5:12 left in the first half.
The Tigers fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Panthers capitalized two plays later when Tyler Henness took a pitch to the left and scored from 36 yards out with 3:52 to go.
Fort Scott got on the board near the end of the half as the Tigers moved 74 yards on under 3 minutes. Knopp made a leaping grab for a 32-yard gain that set up Swim's 3-yard keeper for the score on the next play. However, the extra point kick was unsuccessful so Paola still led 17-6 with with 1:01 remaining.
Tanner Staats put Paola in good field position when he returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to midfield. That led to Wilson's 28-yard field goal that made it 20-6 with 14 seconds to go.
Paola also scored on its first possession of the second half as Henness scored from 11 yards out with 6:50 in the third quarter, making it 27-6.
Staats made it 34-6 with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard run, which capped another time-eating drive, this one of 8 minutes and 43 seconds.
Fort Scott scored on the ensuing drive. Paola was called for roughing the passer on the first play, which put the ball at midfield. Three plays later, Swim found Knopp for a 13-yard gain on a third-down pass that moved the ball to the Paola 31.
On the next play, Swim found Knopp for the touchdown on a post route. They also connected on the 2-point conversion to bring the Tigers within 34-14 with 7:01 to go.
McGehee recovered a successful onside kick, giving Fort Scott possession at the Paola 43. But Swim was stripped of the ball on a scramble and Brandon Goodman recovered at the Paola 21 with 5:39 remaining. The Panthers were able to kill the clock.
Swim completed 7 of 13 passes -- all to Knopp -- for 153 yards. He was also the Tigers' leading rusher with 34 yards on 8 carries. But the Tigers managed only 120 rushing yards on 30 carries.
Henness led Paola with 160 yards on 18 carries while Skyler Hawkins added 144 yards on 22 rushes.
In the other game involving a Southeast Kansas League team, Chanute defeated Columbus, 58-35. The Blue Comets (8-2) will host Louisburg (10-0) Saturday night. The Panthers defeated Anderson County -- the runner-up in District 6 -- by a 42-20 score Tuesday night at Louisburg.