By Travis Mounts
The Eisenhower Tigers and visiting Salina Central Mustangs combined for eight second half touchdowns – five of them in the fourth quarter – in a wild game that ended with an Eisenhower victory, 47-33.
This game had a little bit of everything, including three kickoff returns for touchdowns. Two came from the Tigers’ Lucas Dickman.
The teams played to a 13-13 tie at halftime. The Tigers immediately grabbed the lead, 19-14, as Dickman took the opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.
The fireworks continued when Salina Central scored on their own kickoff return, this one good for 62 yards. The Mustangs made the point-after kick for a 20-19 lead.
The Tigers came right back with a quick scoring drive capped by Caleb Lowry’s 12-yard touchdown run, the first of two touchdowns for the senior running back. The Tigers missed the 2-point try but led 25-20.
At that point, the teams had combined for three touchdowns and 19 points in less than three minutes.
The score remained unchanged through the rest of the third quarter, but things changed once the fourth quarter began.
An Eisenhower punt closed out the third quarter. The Mustangs drove 80 yards in less than three minutes, retaking the lead 26-25 on a 27-yard touchdown pass. They missed their 2-point attempt.
The Tigers gained 40 yards on their first play of the ensuing drive as Horn hooked up with Carson Roy, who did a good job gaining yards after the catch. That put the ball on the Mustangs’ 16-yard line, and Lowry scored his first of two touchdowns on the next play. Horn connected with Carter Pabst on the 2-point try for a 33-26 lead.
The Mustangs tied the game quickly, driving 65 yards in 1:06 to tie the game at 33 as Salina Central quarterback Gunnar Gross scored on an 8-yard run.
With 6:33 to play, the Tigers did their best to slow down the game’s fast pace. Starting at their own 38, the Tigers burned more than five minutes off the clock. They punched the ball into the end zone with 1:26 to play, when Lowery rushed 2 yards for his second score of the game to give Eisenhower a 40-33 lead.
Even though time was running out, the Mustangs had shown they could score quickly. The gained a first down on their first play, and were flagged for an illegal receiver on the next play. On first-and-15, Roy picked off Gross’ pass and returned it for a touchdown with 55 seconds left, giving the Tigers a 14-point lead and effectively ending the game.
“It’s a battle with them every year,” said Eisenhower head coach Darrin Fisher. “Both teams were clicking.”
Fisher said both teams were scoring quickly, but the Tigers knew they had to slow things down on their last offensive possession.
“We decided to keep it on the ground. We knew we could eat up the clock,” he said. “Our offensive line helped that. Central’s guys were getting tired.”
Dickman was huge for the Tigers. He had two kickoff returns for touchdowns. In addition to the score to open the second half, he also scored on an 87-yard return for a 13-7 first-half lead. Dickman made it 7-0 in the first quarter on a 23-yard rush.
Dickman had 186 yards on returns. Lowry came up big, too, gaining 140 yards to go with his two touchdowns.
“Those two guys had the ball in their hands the majority of the game,” Fisher said.
The Mustangs had 464 yards of offense compared to 309 for the Tigers, but that does not include Dickman’s return yardage.
The Tigers threw when needed, completing five of 14 passes. Horn went 4-for-13 for 93 yards. Salina Central threw for 288 yards.
The Tigers are home again this Friday to face Valley Center. The Hornets are coming off a 30-7 home loss to Goddard (see related story).
“I think they will try to establish the running game. They ran a lot of formations. And they’ll load up the box trying to stop our offense,” Fisher said.