ATCHISON, Kan. — Atchison was facing an uphill battle against Piper on Friday night.
The Redmen had injuries at several key positions and were facing a one-loss Pirate team primed for a playoff push. Piper delivered, defeating Atchison 52-8 at Amelia Earhart Stadium.
The disappointing ending doesn’t mean Atchison had a disappointing season.
The Redmen won their first six games of the season before dropping all three district games. Though it won’t play in the postseason, Atchison won the Kansas City-Atchison League championship.
“I knew going into this game we were beat up and we had five starters out,” Atchison coach Jim Smith said. “That kind of says it all right there. We don’t have much depth and hopefully we can get more kids out and encourage them to hit the weight room and get faster and stronger.”
Smith said his team was dedicated each day in practice and during games.
“It’s how hard they worked every day,” he said. “They really did, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. You don’t look at one game, you look at the whole season, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Piper (8-1) jumped on Atchison early, scoring on plays of 19, 42, 62 and 79 yards in the first quarter. By halftime, the visitors held a 33-0 advantage.
The hard work was present, even in the blowout. After Piper scored to increase its lead to 33-0, Isaiah Sayles raced into the backfield to block the extra point attempt.
Atchison had bright spots, but failed to string successful plays together. One step forward and two steps back was the theme for the Redmen (6-3).
One sequence included a 10-yard pass from Adam Smith to Sayles to put Redmen in striking range. On the very next play, however, the Redmen were called for an illegal procedure penalty, pushing them back five yards. Two incompletions later and Atchison had turned the ball over on downs.
Smith finished the game with 84 yards passing, but spent most of his time trying to avoid the Piper defense.
The play of the game came late in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-19, Charlie Phillips took the handoff from Smith and headed around the right side. The Pirate defenders couldn’t catch Phillips as he raced down the sideline for a 47-yard score.
Phillips also picked up the two-point conversion in a touching moment of class from both teams and coaching staffs.
“It was pretty special,” Jim Smith said. “We learned a lot from Charlie. The kids learned to appreciate kids with special needs and Charlie will always be special for us.”
Atchison loses eight seniors from this year’s team but will return several players at key positions in an attempt to repeat as KCAL champions in 2015.