LOUISBURG — The Atchison Redmen showed stellar defensive effort throughout the first half in a tough playoff matchup against the LHS Wildcats, but suffered a Round 1 knockout on Friday night in Louisburg.
The Redmen scored their lone touchdown in the 14-7 loss late in the first quarter on a sweeping run by senior running back Elijah Haley on a frigid November evening. Xavier Hernandez led the defense to make that score count for the remainder of the half, picking up a redzone interception in the final minute of the second quarter.
“I owe everything to the O-Line,” Haley said. “Without those guys playing the way they did, we wouldn’t have been able to score at all, you know? They did everything for me.”
The defensive line consistently offered pressure on senior Wildcats quarterback Madden Rutherford, in a night which saw very few significant completed passes by either side. Atchison ran into the locker room at half time feeling confident and hopeful for a chance to advance in the playoffs.
Things began to turn after the Wildcats opened the third half with a surprise squib kick. The Redmen were caught completely off guard and sophomore Brandon Doles of the Wildcats fell on the ball after it bounced off the Redmen front line. However, despite proceeding to drive it deep into Redmen territory, Louisburg chose to go for it on fourth and goal and came up short.
The Redmen would not again advance the ball beyond midfield in the half and were forced to punt, which set up Lousiburg’s second score of the evening. Junior running back Benjamin Wiedenmann completed a long run along the sideline and into the endzone in the third quarter. He would go on to lead enough Wildcat offense on the ground for the rest of the half by exploiting apparent Atchison defensive weakness on the edges.
“You know, we really kind of beat ourselves tonight,” Haley said. “With the turnovers and the penalties. We gotta tighten that stuff up for next season. Then I think we can be a lot better.”
Atchison, desperate for a breakthrough, showed some progress in the fourth quarter with two significant completed passes to junior wideout Ryan Noll by junior Redmen quarterback Patrick Denton. However, Noll couldn’t find a way to advance downfield on the first reception with about six minutes left in the game despite burning the LHS secondary on the play, and had no opportunities to advance on the Hail Mary which was good for 26 yards in the final minute of the game.
The Redmen’s season comes to an end at three wins and six losses. The Wildcats advance to Round 2 of the playoffs at 6-3.