The Abilene Cowboy football team played its game against Smoky Valley High School Thursday evening directly opposite of the way the Cowboys’ season has gone in 2012.
Thursday night the Cowboys started out fast but ended slowly.
Thursday’s fast start allowed Abilene to build a 27-7 lead, which they held on to late for a 27-15 victory.
That 27-15 victory propels Abilene into the Class 4A playoffs as the District 15 runner up.
The season for the Cowboys, on the other hand, started out slow but is picking up momentum and it is not complete just yet.
Abilene opened the season by losing its first five games before beating Marysville in the final game before district play game began.
Then, once again, in districts Abilene started out slow, losing its first two district games and went into the regular season finale Thursday night by playing host to Smoky Valley needing a win by at least four points and a Chapman loss to McPherson to earn a playoff berth.
McPherson did its part for the Cowboys as the Bullpups beat Abilene’s arch-rival Chapman 42-24. Abilene took care of the rest by defeating Smoky Valley.
McPherson went undefeated through district play, meaning the Bullpups are the district champion. Abilene, Smoky Valley and Chapman all tied for runner-up with 1-2 records as Smoky Valley defeated Chapman 21-14 last week and Chapman defeated Abilene in the district opener 29-28 leaving the point-breaker system to come into play.
McPherson beat all three teams by more than 13 points, the maximum points teams can earn in the KSHSAA tie-breaker system is 13. Chapman beat Abilene by one point and Smoky Valley beat Chapman by 7 points.
Thursday night all Abilene needed was to have Chapman lose and to defeat Smoky Valley by at least four points to be district runner-up.
“We made some plays early and we survived late,” Abilene coach Jeff Geist said. “We had some interesting things happen on the field tonight that are unexplainable. I found some new rules out about football that I didn’t know existed. The kids persevered.”
The Vikings, however, made Abilene’s task seem tougher in the opening minutes of the game Thursday night when the Vikings put togerther an eight-play, 55-yard drive punctuated with a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Curtis Carlson with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter to jump out to a 7-0 lead.
But the Cowboys came storming back as they scored the game’s next 27 points, all in the first half and took a 27-7 lead into the locker room at intermission.
“I told the kids, this kind of sums up the way our year has gone,” Geist said. “We have had to battle up hill, we have had some valleys, we have had some peaks but we survived it. Now we get to play another day, which is pretty cool.”
The Cowboys scored on a 65-yard run by Nick Ward with 0:30 remaining in the first quarter to tie the score 7-7, then on a 40-yard punt return by Colton Mills with 8:33 to go before halftime, a 14-yard pass from Andy Wilson to Zach Barbeir with 4:20 remaining and a 30-yard pass from Wilson to Keil Kelly with 0:11 left before half giving Abilene a 27-7 lead at intermission.
At intermission the Cowboys had 179 yards of total offense while limiting Smoky Valley to just 77 yards, 35 on the ground and 42 through the air.
Neither team struck it rich offensively in the second half as the Vikings were the only ones to score points as they put together a 9-play, 61-yard drive midway through the third quarter which was punctuated with a 6-yard run by Carlson, which made the score 27-13 because the point-after kick was blocked by Abilene.
But the Vikings soon got those extra points on the defensive end when Abilene’s Wilson was whistled for intentional groudning in the end zone for a safety with 5:50 remaining in the game.
But Abilene’s defense buckled down and intercepted Ethan Loder passes on Smoky Valley’s final two possessions to seal the victory and the playoff berth.
The Cowboys now take their 2-7 record into the playoffs where they will play at Concordia on Tuesday evening. Smoky Valley ends its season with a 4-5 record.
“I’m excited, but I know they (Concordia) are playing really well,” Geist said. “We are going to have to do a really good job stopping the run. Much better than we did tonight. But that is our focus tomorrow. But tonight we are going to enjoy this one.”