Arkansas City High School football head coach Jon Wiemers believed if his Bulldogs believed in themselves -- even when virtually nobody else would -- that good things would happen.
All the stamina needed to play two ways against teams bigger and deeper than them. All the physicality needed to match up against those big-city teams in the AV-CTL Division II. All the practice -- all the pain -- all the getting up for one more play.
That all paid off Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.
Junior Tommy Pacheco booted three field goals and the relentless Ark City defense kept Andover out of the end zone, holding on for a 9-6 victory in a game dominated by defense and capitalized by turnovers given up by the visiting team.
The Bulldogs (1-5, 1-3 AV-CTL D-II) played solid defense like they have for most of the season, recording four takeaways. And the offense -- led by freshman quarterback Gabe Welch -- committed no turnovers and played just well enough to move into field-goal position three times against a bruising defense in its own right.
Pacheco put Ark City on the board just 54 seconds into the second quarter with his first field goal of the game, from 21 yards.
Heralded kicker David Kemp, an Andover junior who once booted 54- and 43-yard field goals in the same game as a sophomore, evened the score with a 24-yarder with 2:39 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs weren't finished.
Ark City junior Owen Bucher returned a punt 27 yards and the Trojans (2-4, 1-3) were penalized 15 yards for a chop block, setting up the Bulldogs at the Andover 25-yard line with 37.9 seconds left in the half.
Welch scambled on a keeper for eight yards, but the clock showed zeroes as Welch hurriedly tried to spike the football. However, the officials reset the game clock to 7.8 seconds, and Welch spiked the ball again before Pacheco booted home a 28-yarder as time expired.
Neither offense moved the ball well the entire game, but after Ark City went three-and-out to start the second half, the Trojans went on a nine-play drive that stalled at the ACHS 8-yard line. Andover opted for the game-tying field goal from 25 yards out to knot the score 6-6.
It stayed that way until the wee minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Ark City defense held on fourth-and-5 at the Andover 42-yard line and the Bulldogs took over with 7:51 on the clock.
Welch was hammered on second-and-8 and Andover was flagged 15 yards for roughing the passer. Tailback Braiden Mattocks ran off of left guard, then performed a 360-degree turn and found ample running room to the right for a 20-yard gain -- the longest run of the night for either team. The drive stalled and Pacheco came on again, connecting from 31 yards out for the go-ahead score with 3:38 remaining.
The Trojans weren't finished -- or so they thought.
Andover marched downfield, but Bucher batted a pass by backup quarterback Christian Gonzalez on third-and-9 at the ACHS 42. Rather than go for what would have been about a 57-yard field goal despite virtually no wind on the crisp, 40-degree night, the Trojans elected to go for it on fourth-and 9. A false start penalty moved them back five yards, and Gonzales lofted a pass that was intercepted by Mattocks at the ACHS 25-yard line with 1:45 to go.
The Trojans had all three timeouts, and used them to force Ark City to punt again. Sophomore Aiden Whetstone, who averaged more than 35 yards in eight punts, including three inside the 20, booted a punt that went out of bounds at the Andover 20.
The Ark City defense pressured Gonzales into several ill-advised passes, many that were nearly intercepted, and when he threw incomplete on fourth-and-15 with 55.8 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs secured their first victory.
For complete coverage of Bulldogs football, see Tuesday's CourierTraveler.