FSHS offense comes back strong

Monday, September 24, 2007
Fort Scott High School quarterback Matt Wheeler (7), fullback Grant Hartman and head coach Don Epps have a discussion during the Tigers' Southeast Kansas League game against Coffeyville Friday night at Frary Field in Fort Scott, Kan. Wheeler threw for 44 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers' 49-14 win over the Golden Tornado. (Laura Cooper/Special to the Herald-Tribune).

FORT SCOTT, Kan. -- It was time to re-establish what Fort Scott offensive football is about. And that's about running the ball until the other team can't take it anymore, passing it for a little while and then running it some more while the opponent's hopes of victory disappear.

Fort Scott did that at Frary Field Friday night, routing Coffeyville, 49-14, in a Southeast Kansas League contest in which the Tigers rushed for 292 yards.

Fort Scott managed only 49 yards on the ground in last week's loss at Pittsburg. So seeing the rushing game click for over eight yards a carry pleased head coach Don Epps.

"Of course, we ran the ball better," Epps said when comparing Friday's game to the week before. "Our line did a good job of picking up Coffeyville's front. All the running backs really ran hard. They run and run, run, run, run.

"We had our best game as far as the three facets…special teams, defense and offense. I'm real proud of the effort tonight."

Before the Golden Tornado varsity offense scored on Cody Stephenson's 52-yard run on its last offensive play against the Tigers' junior varsity defense, the varsity held Coffeyville to 74 yards on 34 rushes. That's just 2.2 yards a carry.

"We really have a fine defense," Epps said. "I'm proud of that effort and that's going to be a factor coming down the stretch.

"It's always fun to play good defense. It takes the pressure off the offense when you have a great defensive effort. Coach (Bo) Graham did a fine job of making halftime adjustments. They had a little momentum in the second quarter and we were able to stop that in the second half."

The Tigers, 2-1 in the SEK and 3-1 overall, scored the game's first two touchdowns. They took advantage of a short 'Nado punt to get on the board. Taking over at Coffeyville's 39-yard line with just under eight minutes to go in the first quarter, halfback Luke Halsey gained 15 on a trap play on the first play of a short drive. Quarterback Matt Wheeler then hit Alex Bowman for nine yards before halfback Chris Colvin scampered over the left side from 15 yards out for the score with 7:19 left in the period.

The defense forced another punt, which led to a slightly longer touchdown drive. This time, the Tigers needed 13 plays to go 49 yards but Grant Hartman's plunge up the middle with 1:13 to go in the period increased the lead to 14-0.

The defense didn't allow Coffeyville, 1-2, 2-2, a first down and held it to 13 total yards in the first quarter. But the Tornado made some adjustments and quarterback Danny Gibson started finding room on the right side by following his fullback through the hole. This play worked five times during a drive that ended with an eight-yard Stephenson run with 7:34 to go before halftime that brought Coffeyville within a touchdown.

After the kickoff, the Tigers had to start at their own 37. But they moved up and Durbin found 29 yards over the left side to move the ball to down to the 16. Three plays after that, Wheeler found Alex Barner in the right corner of the end zone to make it 21-7 with 5:28 left in the half.

After another defensive stop, made possible by a quick adjustment to stop the quarterback keeper play that worked for Coffeyville on the previous possession, Halsey fielded a punt at his own 35, found space up the left sideline and scored from 65 yards out with 2:43 left in the half. A bad snap on the extra point forced holder Aaron Judy to throw the ball and he found Blake Nelson for a two-point conversion that made it 29-7.

The Tigers fielded the second-half kickoff but couldn't keep the drive going. However, Wheeler's coffin-corner kick pinned the Tornado back at their own four-yard line.

For whatever reason -- perhaps feeling that the best defense against Fort Scott at this point was to try to keep the ball away from its offense or maybe because of the three-touchdown deficit and a need to take risks to get back into the game -- Coffeyville went for it on fourth-and-one at its own 13. Gibson's quarterback sneak was stopped, giving the Tigers the ball.

Four plays later, Hartman had his second touchdown of the night and Fort Scott's lead was 35-7 after Halsey's PAT was blocked.

The defense was playing loose now and players such as Andre Davis, Clint Lawrence and Jonathan Karleskint were having their way with the 'Nado. The Tigers forced another three-and-out and the offense took over at its own 47.

Now it was time to go to the bench. Mitchell Stoughton came into the game and every time he's been on the field this season, he's popped off a long run. This was no exception as he took the first play of the drive 53 yards to the house to make it 42-7 with 3:16 to go in the third quarter.

Stoughton's touched the ball just 10 times in a varsity game this season. He has gained the ridiculous total of 293 rushing yards and scored three times.

"He takes his opportunities and runs hard," Epps understated.

More great defense forced another punt. Then Stoughton set up the next score with a 55-yard gain down to the Coffeyville five. Two plays later, Taylor Durbin dove over for the score, making it 49-7 with about eight minutes to go.

The Tigers rushed for 292 yards on 35 carries. Stoughton led all ground gainers with 113 yards on only four totes. Halsey finished with 66 yards on eight rushes while Colvin had 47 on five runs.

Wheeler completed five of 12 passes for 44 yards. Tony Karleskint caught three of them for 22 yards.

Coffeyville finished with 193 total yards. Stephenson had 89 on 11 rushes. Gibson completed six of 15 passes for 67 yards as Jake Towery caught three for 11 yards and Drew Davis hauled in two for 33.

Labette County will visit Fort Scott Friday night as the Tigers play their Homecoming game at Frary Field. The Grizzlies lost to Columbus, 35-0, in a league game Friday.

NOTES -- Technology has been taking over Frary Field this season. First, it was the new PA speakers and sound control board. Friday night, for the first time in a high school game at Frary Field, the official was miked and announced calls to the crowd. Jayhawk Conference officials have been miked for Fort Scott Community College games the past two seasons.

Also, after the game, KOMB-FM's Larry Gazaway's post-game interview with Epps was simulcast over the PA system for the lingering crowd to hear….

Columbus gained over 500 yards in total offense in its win over Labette County. Quarterback Corbin Stanley completed 16 of 23 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown....

Independence was on the brink of its second consecutive victory after breaking its 38-game losing streak last week. But Iola rallied from a 34-7 deficit as Connor Frazell's 32-yard field goal gave the Mustangs the victory....

Tailback Jacob Wilson rushed for a career high 234 yards in Pittsburg's 33-14 win over Chanute. C.J. Fondren had another interception, giving him four in his last two games....

The difference in Augusta's 21-18 victory over Parsons was the fact that the Vikings failed on all three extra-point attempts. Corbin Reichard's one-yard TD run with 34 seconds remaining sent Parsons to its second consecutive last-minute defeat.....

COFFEYVILLE..... 0 7 0 7 -- 14

FORT SCOTT........14 15 13 7 -- 49

Team statsCoffeyvilleFort Scott
First downs710
Passing yards6744
Total offense193336
Passing (c-a-i)6-15-05-12-0


First quarter

FS -- Colvin 15 run (Halsey kick), 7:19

FS -- Hartman 1 run (Halsey kick), 1:13

Second quarter

C -- Stephenson 8 run (T.King kick), 7:34

FS -- Barner 13 pass from Wheeler (Halsey kick), 5:28

FS -- Halsey 65 punt return (Nelson pass from Judy), 2:27

Third quarter

FS -- Hartman 1 run (kick blocked), 5:56

FS -- Stoughton 53 run (Halsey kick), 3:16

Fourth quarter

FS -- Durbin 1 run (Halsey kick), 8:48/8:10

C -- Stephenson 52 run (T.King kick), 5:31/4:50

Individual statistics

RUSHING: Coffeyville -- Stephenson 11-89, Sparks 7-28, Gibson 16-5, D.Davis 1-4. Fort Scott -- Stoughton 4-113, Halsey 8-66, Colvin 5-47, Durbin 7-39, Hartman 7-25, Judy 1-2, Wheeler 3-0.

PASSING: Coffeyville -- Gibson 6-15-0-67. Fort Scott -- Wheeler 5-12-0-44.

RECEIVING: Coffeyville -- Towery 3-11, D.Davis 2-33, T.King 1-23. Fort Scott -- T.Karleskint 3-22, Barner 1-13, Bowman 1-9.

NOTE -- Due to the running clock in the fourth quarter, two times are indicated for the scores. The first is when the touchdown was scored. The second is when the extra point was scored.

NOTE TO READERS: There were two errors to player's names in the original publication of this story on Sunday. Taylor Durbin and Matt Wheeler were misidentified. Their names are rendered correctly here. The Herald-Tribune apologizes for and regrets the errors.