Wildcats win eight-man playoff thriller, 38-36


November 6, 2013 - 12:00 AM

HOWARD — Yates Center High’s magic carpet ride that is the 2013 football season continued in remarkable fashion Tuesday.
The Wildcats, in their first playoff appearance in 23 years, pulled off a 38-36 win against a powerful, undefeated West Elk squad to open the Kansas Eight Man, Division I playoffs.
The game came down to the final, thrilling minute, after West Elk scored with 36 seconds left to cut Yates Center’s lead to 38-36 with the two-point conversion still to come.
The Patriots ran in the conversion to tie the score, until Wildcat head coach Ben Wiehn spoke up.
“Their fullback apparently got confused, because they used the I-formation most of the night,” Wiehn said in a telephone interview this morning. “But on that play, they moved him out to the wing.”
One problem.
“The fullback never got set before the ball was snapped,” Wiehn said, making it an illegal play.
Next problem.
None of the officials threw a flag as Wiehn howled in protest.
“I noticed it before they did,” he said. “When they finally threw the flag, I thought the penalty was on me for yelling so loud. They huddled and finally called the illegal motion.”
The penalty nullified the conversion, forcing West Elk to try again from the 8-yard line.
This time, Yates Center’s Trevor Chism stopped the Patriot runner one yard shy of the goal line to preserve the lead.
West Elk had one last shot, but the onside kick went a bit too far for the Patriots to even try for the ball. The Wildcats’ Mikey Bruner recovered and Yates Center ran out the clock.
The win — Yates Center’s first playoff victory since 1983 — sets up a regional matchup Saturday at Clifton Clyde High. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Many of the scores and stats were unavailable, because of the chaotic scene surrounding the win.
The game was played in what Wiehn described as “a monsoon” that halted play for more than an hour in the third quarter and Yates Center leading 30-22. The rains continued even after play resumed.
“The weather really helped us,” Wiehn said. “Our guys were huffing and puffing in the third quarter. We were getting tired.”
Just as importantly, the wet turf slowed West Elk’s vaunted ground game, which did much of the damage in a 52-6 win over Yates Center early in the season.
“They have a great running back, but he just wasn’t able to cut like he normally would,” Wiehn said. “That field was in pretty bad shape by the time it was over. And their quarterback had some issues throwing the ball.”
Still, West Elk scored on its first play from scrimmage to take the early lead.
Yates Center quickly marched down the field on its first drive to tie the score.
“I knew then it was going to be a heckuva game,” Wiehn said. “Our offensive line did a tremendous job with its drive blocking.”
The game went back and forth, with Yates Center eventually moving in front 30-22 by the time the game was halted in the third quarter.
West Elk scored to tie the game at 30-30 with about five minutes left.
The Wildcats responded with a drive, capped by Austin McNett’s 10-yard run with less than two minutes remaining. The conversion put the Wildcats on top 38-30, setting up the dramatic finale.
“We made some mistakes that we need to correct,” Wiehn said. “We had one touchdown called back because of a penalty, and twice their punter dropped the snap, but we couldn’t get the block before he was able to still get the ball off.”
That mattered little to the hearty Yates Center patrons who stuck around through the weather delay, until the nailbiting finish. The game didn’t end until after 11 p.m.
“I think we had more fans out there after the delay,” Wiehn said. “It was great.”
Wiehn heaped praise on Yates Center’s players.
“Everybody talks about our three key guys, Caleb (DeNoon), Austin (McNett) and Robert (Arnold), but the key to this win was our role players,” Wiehn said. “Mike Bruner made some huge plays, and Trevor Chism had a great game on both sides of the ball. He stopped that two-point run by himself.
“I’m really proud of all our guys,” he said. “It was a great, crazy night.”

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