It might seem farfetched for a 4-5 team to be favored on the road against a 7-2 squad, but try convincing Mulvane coach Dave Fennewald of that.
“Every team they’ve lost to is in the playoffs, and two of those (Andover and Maize South) are (Class) 5A schools,” Fennewald said after visiting Andover Central shut down his Wildcats, 30-21, Friday night in a Class 4A first-round playoff game.
“We knew we were probably the underdogs going into this game. That’s how we approached it. We looked at it as (our) being the underdog because of their schedule and who they had played.”
The Jaguars (5-5) didn’t exactly put up an offensive slugfest, but they did enough to put together a complete game – even when Mulvane senior quarterback Jayden Price passed for 358 yards and the Wildcats’ three touchdowns.
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“He’s a good guy, and he’s slippery,” Andover Central coach Tom Audley said afterward. “It’s hard to get to him, but I think we got to him enough times that we put a little pressure on him.”
A lot of what this game came down to was special teams and a skilled group of Andover Central sophomores showing poise beyond their years.
“Our kids stepped up, and I thought they played well,” Audley said. “They believed they could win, our coaches thought we could win. It wasn’t always perfect, but I thought we did a lot of good stuff.”
Fennewald said Andover Central’s youth will only get better.
“Their sophomore class is a loaded class,” he said. “They’re going to be a very good football tam the next few years. They’re going to be somebody to watch out for.”
Whenever Mulvane (7-3) would bust a big play in the first half, the Jaguars had an answer.
The Wildcats began the scoring early – on their third play from scrimmage – when Price connected with a top sophomore for Mulvane, running back Cole Diffenbaugh on an 85-yard scoring play. Price lofted the ball in stride to Diffenbaugh, who had gotten behind the Andover Central secondary.
Diffenbaugh has been impressive, Fennewald said.
“He’s had a good season,” he said. “We lost some good running backs last year, and for being only a sophomore, I thought he did a tremendous job this year. He’ll get better every year as well.”
With a minute remaining in the first quarter, two Jaguars sophomores hooked up for a 59-yard tying touchdown as Reagan Jones hit Xavier Bell.
After Mulvane regained the lead on a Price-to-Diffenbaugh touchdown pass of 66 yards with 8:57 left in the second quarter, Jones found another sophomore, Matt Macy, on a 53-yard pass play for another tie.
Andover Central then forced a Mulvane punt, and senior wide receiver Matt Lyman, who had come close to breaking some earlier returns, ran the punt back 80 yards for a lead the Jaguars would not relinquish.
“He had a long one where he just barely got tackled, and I came off the field and told him, ‘You’re going to get one,’” Jaguars senior defensive end Hunter O’Connor said. “I ran on the field for the PAT (after Lyman’s return) and just told him, ‘I told you, man.’”
In the second half, Jones completed just one pass, but Andover Central caught other breaks.
One came with just less than six minutes to play, when a snap deep in Wildcats territory got past punter Caleb Clark and went into the end zone. Clark managed to retrieve it and get off a punt, but it only traveled to the Mulvane 11.
The Jaguars couldn’t punch it in, but kicker Clark Schoonover sent a low line drive barely over the crossbar from 30 yards for the game’s final points.
“We were trying to run down the clock, and we were going to take one stab at (the end zone),” Audley said. “It didn’t work, but we got the field goal to make it a two-score game. That was real big.”
There really isn’t any magic formula for the Jaguars’ perennial ability to contend, O’Connor said.
“(Audley) keeps us focused,” he said. “We’re kids; it’s easy for us to lose focus. I think, more than anything – even if it’s just before the game – he really helps us get zoned in and get our heads on the game. That just helps us so much.”
Audley said Mulvane’s early score wasn’t surprising.
“They’ve got an explosive offense,” he said. “We got behind a little bit, but our kids kept fighting.”
Jones, who finished with 154 passing yards and 42 more rushing, evoked some early memories of Price for Fennewald.
“He reminds me of (Price) as a sophomore,” Fennewald said. “He throws the ball well, he runs very well. They’ve got some good young receivers that are very, very good athletes.”
Andover Central 7 13 7 3 – 30
Mulvane 7 7 7 0 – 21
M – Diffenbaugh 85 pass from Price (Clark kick)
AC – Bell 59 pass from Jones (Schoonover kick)
M – Diffenbaugh 66 pass from Price (Clark kick)
AC – Macy 53 pass from Jones (Schoonover kick)
AC – Lyman 80 punt return (run failed)
AC – Allison 1 run (Schoonover kick)
M – Diffenbaugh 14 pass from Price (Clark kick)
AC – FG Schoonover 30
RUSHING – Andover Central: Allison 25-65, Jones 10-42, Rodd 2-6, Bell 2-4, Herrmann 3-(-1). Mulvane: Price 16-55, Diffenbaugh 12-10.
PASSING – Andover Central: Jones 5-21-2-154. Mulvane: Price 19-37-1-358; Diffenbaugh 1-1-0-18.
RECEIVING – Andover Central: Macy 2-62, Jensen 2-33, Bell 1-59. Mulvane: Ellis 8-84, Diffenbaugh 7-224, Webb 2-41, Walker 2-9, Johnson 1-18.