As far as Cowley Cup games go, Friday night’s game was one for the books.
Winfield High School senior KC Crandall found fellow senior Chance Price wide open for an 18-yard touchdown pass and catch with 24 seconds left, sending the Vikings to a wild 20-18 victory against arch rival Arkansas City at a packed Richard L. Jantz Stadium.
The Bulldogs had one final shot after taking the ball to the Winfield 35-yard line, but senior Tommy Pacheco’s 52-yard field goal attempt came up just short at the final buzzer.
“It was a great game to watch, but the coaching at the end was a little stressful,” WHS coach Linn Hibbs said. “I can’t say enough of how proud I am of my kids. They just kept playing and kept playing — that’s what we’re trying to instill in our kids: keep playing, keep playing. I’m so proud of their effort, their commitment. It’s all about them — I’m just so super proud of what they did tonight.”
Trailing 18-14, the Vikings (1-0) took the ball at the 50-yard line after the Bulldogs went three-and-out and were forced to punt.
Winfield put together a 12-play drive, but was faced with third-and-15 after Ark City sophomore Taviahn Mack burst through the line nearly untouched for a sack.
Crandall rolled out to the right and found Price wide open for the go-ahead score.
“First off, I want to thank God, because He always provides. Second off, that was all KC Crandall,” Price said. “That was a beautiful throw. Good job by the line — it was a team effort. KC Crandall had a beautiful find on that play — that was all him right there.”
Crandall finished 11-of-24 passing for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m just so happy for my linemen, all the guys who worked so hard for me. It’s for me and all the seniors, but it’s for all the people that protect me every play,” Crandall said. “That’s how we drew it up,” he said with a laugh. “I had to trail a lot and Chance Price did a good job of getting open.”
The two rivals spent the majority of the first half trading mental blows and verbal barbs, resulting in several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. But after combining for 303 total yards and 32 points in the first half, the game turned defensive on a warm September night where the temperature was 89 at game time, with a heat index of 97.
“We were running the ball pretty well in the first half,” Ark City coach Jon Wiemers said. “I think when they had those moments tonight, they made those plays.”
The Bulldogs took advantage of a muffed punt snap to take a 2-0 lead when the ball rolled out of the end zone for a safety just two minutes into the game.
Ark City took the free kick and used a seven-play, 54-yard drive that culminated with a 17-yard touchdown run from senior Braiden Mattocks. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound tailback finished with 97 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
“Passion for the game. I love to play football — I’m a very competitive person,” Mattocks said. “Of course, it’s a pretty big rivalry game. But the first game of the season, we’ll come back strong from this.”
The Vikings didn’t benefit from as good of field position as did Ark City, but went on several long drives, including the ensuing one — a 12-play, 84-yard drive capped by a 1-yard TD run by Winfield senior Nolan Foust. The 6-0, 165-pound tailback finished with 78 yards on 17 carries.
Crandall threaded a needle with a perfect pass through double coverage to Ledford for the 2-point conversion that tied the game 8-8.
Not to be outdone, the Bulldogs started at their own 37 and went on a 14-play drive capped by a 6-yard score from Mattocks.
Right back came the Vikings, who went on a 10-play, 83-yard drive that ended when Ledford nearly made a one-handed catch and rambled into the end zone for a 17-yard pass play from Crandall.
The slugfest continued.
Ark City capped an eight-play, 58-yard drive when Pacheco’s 38-yard field goal barely crept over the cross bar with 1:23 left in the half.
After gaining nine first downs and going 4 of 7 on third-down conversions in the first half, the Bulldogs managed just five first downs and were 1 of 6 on third-down tries the rest of the way.
“I think we got out-executed. The moments that mattered, they executed and we didn’t. My hat’s off to them for that,” Wiemers said.
“We had some critical moments on some third downs that either we didn’t block the right person or we had a guy run the wrong route. I think they felt like we could come out the second half and continue to run the ball. They stopped it, and we didn’t execute it.”
Ark City opened the second half with a promising 13-yard drive, but O’Toole threw incomplete in the end zone on fourth-and-3. The Bulldogs, however, took the ball back just minutes later on a Winfield fumble, but O’Toole was intercepted by Price to snuff out that threat.
Ark City controlled the ball for more than nine of the 12 third-quarter minutes, but had nothing to show for it.
“I think both teams played really hard, and they do in a game like this,” Wiemers said. “We played hard, but we played stupid. And ultimately, that’s on my shoulders. I take full blame for that. We just need to execute better.”
O’Toole finished 12-of-20 passing for 100 yards after playing on defense last season.
“I was typically defense last year, so I had a different role. This year the ball is in my hands every time. It’s a bigger role — I love to fill those shoes,” O’Toole said. “It kind of stinks that we just didn’t come out on top. We had our chances — we missed assignments. We dug our grave in that game.”
The Vikings hit the road for a tough game next Friday at state-power McPherson, a 29-17 winner Friday at Salina South. The Bulldogs return home to face the Goddard Lions, who opened the season Thursday with a 34-22 victory against Wichita East.
Winfield 20, Arkansas City 18
AC — Safety, muffed punt fumbled out of end zone, 10:00. Drive: 5 plays, minus-18 yards, 2:00. Key play: Winfield false start penalty on first-and-10.
AC — Braiden Mattocks 17 run (kick failed), 7:19. Drive: 7 plays, 54 yards, 2:35. Key plays: Mattocks23 run; Lucas Barnes 9 pass from Haden O’Toole on fourth-and-4.
W — Nolan Foust 1 run (Braden Ledford pass from KC Crandall), 2:58. Drive: 12 plays, 84 yards, 4:08. Key plays: Foust 10 run; Crandall 8 run on second-and-5; Ledford 18 pass from Crandall on second-and-15.
AC — Mattocks 6 run (Cadon Clark kick), 8:20. Drive: 14 plays, 64 yards, 11:12. Key plays: Barnes 16 pass from O’Toole on third-and-7; Taviahn Mack 10 run on third-and-1; Mattocks 5 run on fourth-and-1.
W — Ledford 17 pass from Crandall (run failed), 4:00. Drive: 10 plays, 83 yards, 4:14. Key plays: Ark City 15 unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; Crandall 15 run.
AC — FG, Tommy Pacheco, 38. Drive: 8 plays, 58 yards, 2:30. Key plays: Tre’vion Sartin 15 pass from O’Toole on third-and-11; Winfield 15 unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
W — Chance Price 18 pass from Crandall (kick failed), 0:24. Drive: 12 plays, 50 yards, 2:53. Key plays: Foust 11 run on fourth-and-1; Ledford 11 pass from Crandall; Foust 3 run on third-and-inches.
3rd Down Conv5-134-10
4th Down Conv5-62-4
Punts No-Avg Yards1-22.02-29.0
Time of Poss24:4923:11
RUSHING — Ark City, Braiden Mattocks 22-97, Taviahn Mack 3-12, Owen Bucher 2-10, Tommy Pacheco 1-8, Haden O’Toole 4-7, Rhett Lathers 1-3, Walker Moulton 1-0, team 1-(minus 8). Winfield, Nolan Foust 17-78, KC Crandall 9-58, Ar’man Acosta 10-46, Aidan Harper 1-4, team 4-(minus 54).
PASSING — Ark City, Haden O’Toole 12-20-1 100. Winfield, 11-24-0 136.
RECEIVING — Ark City, Lucas Barnes 4-37, Daigen Moulton 2-23, Tre’vion Sartin 1-15, Braiden Mattocks 1-9, Owen Bucher 2-9, Cadon Clark 1-7, Walker Moulton 1-0. Winfield, Chance Price 5-74, Braden Ledford 4-52, Jake Kaufman 1-5, Trent Beckwith 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Ark City, Pacheco 52 (SH).