For the second straight year, the Girard Trojans are 4A-II District 3 champions. Girard clinched the title with a 28-14 win over Iola Thursday night, cementing a second straight 3-0 finish in districts.
Thursday night’s matchup saw the Trojans host a 5-3 Iola team that was looking for their first playoff appearance since 2008. The game was a tale of two halves with the Mustangs coming out on top in the first half, before an inspired Trojan football team took the second half and the game.
After the Trojans were forced to a three-and-out punt on their first drive, Iola thrashed Girard’s defense. The Mustangs went 64 yards on eight carries and quickly took a 7-0 lead after a 22-yard touchdown run. With a chance to shift the momentum back to their side, the Trojans took the ball. In just eight plays, Girard would answer back with a touchdown, fueled by Eric Wilson. Wilson carried the ball three times for 45 yards on the drive, including a five-yard touchdown that tied the game.
The next Mustang drive ended with an interception by Trey Eaton, and the Trojans had a chance to change the complexion of the game. Girard marched down the field and found themselves with four chances to get the ball in from the Mustang’s six yardline, but Iola’s defense conquered the challenge and kept the Trojans out of the endzone.
After forcing Iola to punt, the Trojans would find their second score of the game when Wilson connected with Jordan Hopson for a 21-yard touchdown pass and catch. The extra point was blocked, but Girard held a 13-7 lead with 3:53 remaining in the first half.
The Mustangs would start their final drive of the first half on their own 20, and they would need 10 plays to find the endzone. With just seconds remaining in the half, the Mustangs plunged in from one yard out to take a 14-13 lead going into the half.
The same individuals came out for the second half, but a different Trojan team took the field. The Trojans quickly forced a three-and-out punt, and started their first offensive drive on their own one yardline. With 99 yards in front of them, the Trojans went to work. Trey Eaton was a monster on the drive, carrying the ball 5 times for 64 yards to set up Wilson for a 15-yard run for six points. Wilson connected with Hopson for the two-point conversion, and the Trojans took a 21-14 lead.
Looking to answer, the Mustangs could muster just one yard on three carries on the ensuing drive, and they were forced to punt yet again. Girard’s next drive was kept alive on a third down that saw Wilson connect with Junior Lindbloom for a 24-yard gain. Three plays later, Eaton found the endzone from nine yards out, and the Trojans held a 28-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. While it would be their last score of the night, the Trojans defense had more than enough in the tank to seal the win.
Iola’s final four drives of the night ended with two turnovers on downs, as well as an interception from Ted Paoni and another from Wilson. The Mustangs would find just two first downs in the second half.
With the victory, the Trojans finished the regular season with a 6-3 record, and they will host a first-round playoff game next Friday.